Multiple Sclerosis? Fork You!

MS, multiple sclerosis, a frightening diagnosis.  What would you do?  Read this remarkable testimony about the power of your fork!

“Life can change in a moment. It did for me”

Saray 570x299 My Journey from Doctor to MS Patient … and Back – Thanks to Plant Based Eating!

October 11, 1995 started out like any other grueling 24-hour shift at the hospital. I was a young, energetic physician living what I considered to be an extraordinary life. But this night was more exhausting than any I could remember. Deeply fatigued, I finally made it to bed around 3 am. Within the hour, I was awakened by a call from the emergency room. As I leapt out of bed, I experienced something so foreign that it simply took my breath away. During this brief nap I had lost feeling in my lower extremities. Something was terribly wrong. I was emergently rushed off to an MRI that revealed multiple plaques in my brain and spinal cord, confirming a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

I was no longer Dr. Stancic, making early morning rounds on her patients. I was now the newly admitted MS patient, lying in a bed as a flock of medical students and doctors took turns assessing my deteriorating neurological status. Soon thereafter came a parade of drugs with their numerous side effects, all intended to mitigate the frightening progression and symptoms of MS. I had become a drug-dependent, sick young woman struggling to accept her fate. MS had swiftly swept away my dreams and aspirations, and left behind a shadow of my former self.

In the fall of 2003, after nearly a decade of a life compromised by chronic illness, a pivotal and enlightening event occurred. I came across an article in a medical journal touting the benefits of blueberries in MS patients. The article summarized findings suggesting that MS patients who ate blueberries had improved symptoms compared with those who did not. The investigators attributed these results to the berries’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The scientist in me was skeptical, but this publication had the effect of igniting my curiosity. Could food play a role in ameliorating or even preventing chronic illness?I was consumed by this idea, and driven to explore existing medical literature in search of answers. What I found was both illuminating and transformative. There was ample evidence in respectable peer-reviewed medical journals that our diets do play a key role in the development of chronic illness!

I wondered how this topic had escaped our medical school curriculum. The power of healing that lies in a whole-food, plant-based diet is incalculable and unquestionable. I was inspired by what I had discovered and felt compelled to personally adopt this lifestyle. I discontinued all my medications and focused on optimizing my diet.

Over the years that followed, I felt stronger and energized. Remarkably, after years of difficulty walking unassisted, my neurological deficits gradually improved. I felt renewed and infused with a great sense of hope. I decided to take up jogging, which evolved to running. In the spring of 2010 I ran a marathon. It was truly an extraordinary experience.

As a physician observing unnecessary suffering and loss, I felt compelled to spread the word of this seemingly untapped therapeutic resource with whomever was willing to listen. Regrettably, in speaking to colleagues, I found many did not share my level of enthusiasm or acceptance that this approach was valid.

My sense of alienation lifted after watching Forks Over Knives. I was reinvigorated by witnessing other like-minded physicians practice medicine with this philosophy. Today, my focus is educating patients on the value of a whole-food, plant-based diet, with an eye toward reducing prescription drug dependence.

Patients need to learn that they do have control of their individual health outcomes. For my patients, watching this film is a mandatory part of their care plan. The film effectively reinforces all that we discuss, and its impactful style is both educational and entertaining.

We can, as a society, shift and make the necessary changes to improve our health and well-being.  Life can change in a moment … and that can be a very wonderful thing.

God bless

Metabolic Syndrome: Got it? Beat it!

metabolic syndromeI came across an article the other day written by a doctor who was using himself as a guinea pig in the quest for knowledge about how our bodies burn different fuel, primarily fat and glucose.  He was fascinated by our ability to switch back and forth between these fuel sources, depending upon our state of activity, and by the body’s ability to actually manufacture certain fuels required to run our brains.  The triggering event for this interest was his shocking diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome, despite being relatively young and a long-distance swimmer.  I had never heard of Metabolic Syndrome and decided to dig deeper.

Basically, you are diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome if you have any three of the following:

  • A waistline of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women (measured across the belly)
  • A blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher or are taking blood pressure medications
  • A triglyceride level above 150 mg/dl
  • A fasting blood glucose (sugar) level greater than 100 mg/dl or are taking glucose-lowering medications
  • A high density lipoprotein level (HDL) less than 40 mg/dl (men) or under 50 mg/dl (women)

blood testThe doctor I mentioned above was okay with the first two, but his blood chemistry told a different story and had him trip-up on the last three.  How do you prevent, arrest or reverse Metabolic Syndrome while avoiding prescription drugs?  Here are the most effective answers and, in the case of our doctor friend, the dietary adjustment had the most profound effect:

  • Lose weight – Moderate weight loss, in the range of 5 percent to 10 percent of body weight, can help restore your body’s ability to recognize insulin and greatly reduce the chance that the syndrome will evolve into a more serious illness.
  • Exercise – Increased activity alone can improve your insulin levels. Aerobic exercise such as a brisk 30-minute daily walk can result in a weight loss, improved blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of developing diabetes. Most health care providers recommend 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. Exercise may reduce the risk for heart disease even without accompanying weight loss.
  • Consider dietary changes – Maintain a diet that keeps carbohydrates to no more than 50 percent of total calories. Eat foods defined as complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread (instead of white), brown rice (instead of white), and sugars that are unrefined (instead of refined; for example cookies, crackers). Increase your fiber consumption by eating legumes (for example, beans), whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Reduce your intake of red meats and poultry. Thirty percent of your daily calories should come from fat. Consume healthy fats such as those in canola oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil and nuts.
  • Limit alcohol intake – Consume no more than one drink a day for women, or two drinks a day for men.

Here’s a quick video that provides a comprehensive solution:

(If the video doesn’t load, click here)

God bless

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True Health

Forks Over KnivesFor most of my life, I was under the delusion that it really didn’t matter what I ate.  Because I was always so active swimming, surfing, skiing or playing football, lacrosse or tennis, I never gained weight and was always in pretty good shape.  It wasn’t until I went totally plant-based that I discovered just how naive and uninformed I really was.  There are a lot of other measures, besides weight, that I have now come to appreciate as indicators of true health.  The increased energy levels, absence of colds, increased endurance, less muscle and joint pain, quicker recovery times, better moods, in addition to an even leaner body, can all be traced back to going plant-based.  So, if you haven’t made the switch to a plant-based diet because you don’t need to lose weight or out of compassion for the treatment of animals, as the following testimony confirms, there are a whole host of additional benefits that hopefully will convince you to do so.

Running for “Health” Wasn’t Enough … Eating Plants Made All the Difference!

By  
 Alina 570x299 Running for “Health” Wasn’t Enough … Eating Plants Made All the Difference!I immigrated to the United States seven years ago from Russia. Right away the pleasures of American cuisine turned out to be irresistible to me. Going out to eat two to three times a week with my new American friends? Sure! All of the temptations at supermarkets and fast food places? Bring them on!

 To compensate for all that fattening food, I took up running for the first time in my life and immediately fell in love with it. Running helped me avoid packing on weight, and I found myself in the trap a lot of active people fall into: “I exercise, so I can eat whatever I want, right?”

Over the course of three years, I ran seven half-marathons, one full marathon, and a few 5k and 10k races. As much as I loved running and exercise, I had a growing concern: my body was almost constantly sore, my joints ached … and I was only in my 20s! I was worried that the activity I loved so much was undermining my health. Plus, I kind of stalled in my fitness because of all that soreness. I knew that if I wanted to get stronger without ruining myself, I would have to look into what other athletes who were much better than me were doing.

This is how I discovered that a lot of really good endurance athletes were on a plant-based diet! I became curious and went on to do some research. I learned that eating animal products and junk food do a lot of harm to us, no matter how hard we exercise. One night, my husband and I watched the amazing documentary Forks Over Knives, and it blew my mind!

At first, I was afraid that adopting the plant-based lifestyle would be too hard: there are too many temptations out there … going out to eat could be a challenge … and what about the opinions of family and friends? I kept on reading wonderful books about plant-based athletes (like Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run) as well as articles by T. Colin Campbell, John McDougall, and others. Eventually, after watching Forks Over Knives — The Extended Interviews, I was completely convinced that a plant-based diet is the healthiest for us, and all my previous fears and excuses fell by the wayside.

The first couple weeks were all it took for me to believe that I was on the right track: my energy levels skyrocketed and stayed high throughout the day; I started waking up early with no problem, even though I considered myself an owl before; all the skin blemishes that had plagued me since adolescence cleared up; I was finally able to exercise harder and recover quicker; and my muscles and joints were no longer sore.

Leaving my old eating habits behind turned out to be no problem: I found a lot of delicious plant-based vegan recipes through Pinterest and bought a couple great cookbooks. My husband was a little skeptical at first, but after I showed him all the scientific information about plant-based eating and started cooking delicious vegan meals, he was convinced.

On November 10, I ran my first plant-fueled marathon in 4:08:18. I fully credit my plant-based diet for making me stronger than ever. I am living proof that plant foods alone can fuel a physically demanding lifestyle perfectly … and what could be more convincing than learning through my own experience!

It’s been six months since I became plant-strong, and I am proud to say that this way of life has not only made me healthier and assured me of my inner strength, it also gave me confidence to find my voice and inspire others — by sharing my story through my new blog!

Thank you, Forks Over Knives, for encouraging me to embrace this healthy lifestyle!

God bless

“Miracle-Gro For Your Brain”

brain healthThis title is actually a quote from John Ratey, a neuropsychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, who is making the case that fitness has a long-term influence on a wide range of cognitive abilities.  It’s generally accepted that exercise is effective in reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.  Recent research by Ratey and others now suggests that the physical exercise in which we engaged as children helped power the brain through the many changes into adulthood and the subsequent decrease in physical activity as we age is partially responsible for the onset of dementia.  One German study, published in 2010, tracked 4,000 people older than 55 for two years. It found that those who rarely took part in physical activities were more than twice as likely to suffer from a cognitive impairment by the end of the study than those who engaged in exercise such as gardening, swimming or cycling a few times a week.  Another study, which followed 1,500 people for 20 years, showed that those people who exercised at least twice a week during middle-age were less likely to develop dementia in their 60s and 70s.

There are three possible explanations for the link between exercise and brain function.  One is the euphoric effect and clarity of mind felt after exercising which produces a drop in stress levels, long recognized as an impairment to cognitive function.  The second is the effect on blood pressure.  High blood pressure, especially in the arteries that feed the brain, has been linked to a slump in mental performance.  Regular exercise tends to lower blood pressure, thereby reducing the stress and damage to these arteries.  The third, Ratey describes, is “exercise also prompts the brain to send out growth factors such as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).  BDNF is like ‘Miracle-Gro for your brain’ because it creates an environment where neurons can flourish and promotes the formation of new connections between cells.”

exercise and the brainMost importantly, you can produce this beneficial effect at any age, even with moderate exercise like walking.  Ratey suggests starting slowly with an exercise regime that is not likely to produce injury or initial discouragement.  However, in concert with the most recent exercise theory, he goes on to stress that the most dramatic effect will be through High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  Aside from producing the best physical results, HIIT seems to also produce the best mental conditions as evidenced by a German study in which participants incorporated two three-minute intervals of high-intensity sprinting into a 40-minute run. They produced much higher levels of BDNF and noradrenaline, and the runners performed 20 percent better in a post-run vocabulary-building exercise than those who had taken more leisurely exercise.

The only benefit to dementia is that you meet new friends and family every day.  It’s a horrendous condition, but science is now suggesting you have some control over it manifesting in your life.  Start moving!

God bless

The Most Effective Exercise

high-intensity workoutMainstream thinking on the most effective way to exercise is beginning to focus on something I, and probably most of you, can confirm anecdotally based on our own personal experiences.  When I think back on the times in my life when I have undoubtedly been in the best physical condition, it’s been the result of engaging in short, high-intensity intervals of full-body engaging exercise.  Football, lacrosse, skiing, surfing and tennis are specific examples of activities during which I developed speed, strength, agility, power, endurance, coordination and maximum health.  The world’s #1 natural health website, http://www.mercola.com, recently confirmed this:

Most people still think that in order to improve your cardiovascular fitness, endurance training is a must. But this is actually not true. Quite the contrary. High-intensity interval training, which requires but a fraction of the time compared to conventional cardio, has been shown to be FAR more efficient, and more effective.

This type of physical activity mimics the movements of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, which included short bursts of high-intensity activities, but not long-distance running. This, researchers say, is what your body is hard-wired for. Basically, by exercising in short bursts, followed by periods of recovery, you recreate exactly what your body needs for optimum health. In the case of high intensity exercises, less really is more. You can get all the benefits you need in just a 20-minute session performed twice to three times a week.

The real kicker here is that this type of exercise is as effective as most pharmaceutical drugs in treating chronic disease!…..

One recent meta-review compared the effectiveness of exercise versus drug interventions on mortality outcomes for four common conditions, including heart disease. After reviewing 305 randomized controlled trials, which included nearly 339,300 people, they found ‘no statistically detectable differences’ between physical activity and cholesterol lowering medications for heart disease

The two drugs included in the evaluation were statins and beta blockers. The only time drugs beat exercise was for the recovery from heart failure, in which case diuretic medicines produced a better outcome.

Exercise was in fact found to be so potent a strategy that the researchers suggested drug companies ought to be required to include it for comparison when conducting clinical trials for new drugs! Previous research has also shown that exercise alone can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by a factor of three.  You’d be wise to pay attention to how you exercise, though.

It’s clearly time to rethink your exercise program and switch to one that focuses primarily on full-body, short, high-intensity intervals.  The good news is that it takes much less time and produces far superior results in terms of physical condition, immune system effectiveness and longevity.

focusT25

(To order Focus T25, go here: http://www.beachbodycoach.com/fit4liferbm)

God bless.

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Try Cancer, See How You Like It

cancer patientWhat?  Have I lost my mind?  Why would anyone want to try cancer?  I’ll tell you why; to make damn sure you are doing everything within your power to avoid really getting it.  There is nothing good about cancer, absolutely nothing.  Sure, you’ll hear survivors say, in retrospect, “it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I have a whole new perspective on life”.  Really?  There are a lot of different ways to get a new perspective on life and I’m sure not one of those survivors would have picked cancer as their preferred route to get there.

So how do you try cancer?  You walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, that’s how.  The anti-smoking crowd has finally figured out that the fear of death doesn’t really work as a deterrent.  As humans, our innate egocentric view promotes a deep-seated fear of our own mortality, so we just don’t think about our own death.  Campaigns built around the fear of death don’t work because the people hearing the message just aren’t wired to make the connection.  But, start to mess with the quality of that same person’s life and you have a very different outcome.  The recent TV ads showing the debilitating effects of smoking on cancer patients has been wildly successful.  It turns out the prospect of staying alive in horrendous circumstances has a much more profound effect than the prospect of dying.

Do your part in the campaign against cancer by first walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.  Specifically, go to http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/health/life-interrupted.html# and witness the Emmy-winning documentary of a young woman’s personal battle.  In doing so, you’ll get a sense for why I spend so much time writing about the things that we now know cause, prevent and cure cancer (just do a search for “cancer” at www.fit4liferbm.com).  It’s the closest thing to actually getting the diagnosis yourself and it should inspire you to make the necessary changes in your lifestyle to avoid a quality of life that just plain sucks.

God bless

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