Integrative Medicine Foundations


I recently gave a talk titled Eating for Pleasure Vitality and Health.  Listen in and you will receive some guidance about the healthiest ways to eat.   Also, a handout on the anti-inflammatory diet.

Healthy sleep:

Getting a good night sleep is a recommendation made by mothers and health professionals alike. Insufficient sleep has been linked to health problems as diverse as obesity and diabetes.  But what does it actually mean?  Some equate falling into a sound sleep the minute your head hits the pillow only to awaken eight hours later as the ideal.  So it may be surprising to learn that this is not historically how people slept at all.  Before electric lights lit up the night, people often had a first sleep, a wakeful period (which was said to be an ideal time for study, reflection, or making love) followed by a second sleep.  This historical evidence may help you reframe your nighttime awakening. When we hold interrupted sleep more lightly, our anxiety about it diminishes, and we may awaken feeling more refreshed.

Still tired? In some parts of the world, naps after lunch continue to be seen as part of everyone’s day.    In a 2008 study, of 23,000 Greek adults, researchers followed subjects for an average of six years, measuring their diets, physical activity and how much they napped. They found that occasional napping was associated with a 12 percent reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease, but that regular napping — at least three days weekly — was associated with a 37 percent reduction.

But maybe its falling asleep that you find most challenging.  Yoga might be able to help Here are some breathing practices from the yogic tradition that can help you to fall asleep.

Much uncertainty remains about the overall purpose of sleep.  One new theory is that it provides a cleanup function.  Dr Maiken Nedergaard and her colleagues at the University of Rochester discovered the glymphatic system in 2013. It consists of a network of fluid filled chambers that are relatively dormant when awake and active during sleep.  The glymphatic system serves to clear the brain of toxic metabolic products.

Rubin Naiman PhD wrote a beautiful book that helps us reframe our experience of sleep called Healing Night. In his writing he says, “Sleep is an experience — a personal subjective experience of another kind of consciousness. It’s also an experience that can only thrive in the context of a healthy lifestyle.”

May your sleep be deeply restful and restorative!

Managing Your Weight

A tremendous amount of attention has been given to what we eat and how much we move.  These factors are certainly important, and they don’t explain the whole picture of the obesity crisis our nation faces.

Some of the less widely know factors are:

  • Endocrine disrupting chemicals – in plastics, can liners, thermal receipts, personal care products, artificial fragrances, pesticides, and many more exposures can influence our weight.  The newest term for these chemicals are obesogens.   Do all that you can to avoid exposures.
  • Antibiotics are used as growth promoters in animals we raise for food.  Could they be contributing to obesity in our population?  Some experts believe that they may be contributing. While antibiotics can be life saving, avoid all unnecessary use. Also, in babies and young children, where it may matter the most, ask your doctor to prescribe the narrowest spectrum antibiotic possible to treat the condition.
  • Inadequate sleep.  Sleeping less than seven hours has been associated with weight gain.
  • Your microbiome, aka the bacteria that inhabit your intestines.  A growing body of research links these bacteria (we typically have about 100 trillion inside of us) and obesity.  For example, studies show that sterile, slim mice who receive a transplant of intestinal bacteria from obese mice become obese.   You can keep your microbiome healthier by eating fermented foods, avoiding processed food and unnecessary antibiotics.  For prospective parents, vaginal delivery and breast feeding help initiate a healthy microbiome in your child.
  • Consider intermittent fasting.  Fasting 2 non-sequential days per week (with a limit of 500 calories on those days) or limiting food consumption to a 12 hour period each day can help lead to successful weight loss.
  • This recent NIH review says evidence is best for yoga and mindfulness.

Food advice: eating more vegetables, fruits, and nuts are all factors associated with weight loss in large studies.  Eating less potatoes (especially french fries and chips), less sugar and products containing sugar (including soda) are also shown to be beneficial. Most experts suggest that you minimize consumption of processed foods (especially those with flours and vegetable oils).

I have found in my clinical practice that going off gluten helps many people to lose weight.  Also, I recommend avoiding products made with flour (including gluten-free flours) such as bread, crackers, pastries, chips and with simple carbs (potatoes, rice).

Exercise: the evidence for the value of exercise grows steadily – even if you never lose an ounce!

Physical Activity:

Physical activity: short bursts of high intensity exercise appear to help speed metabolism and reduce weight.  For example, one study asked volunteers to do five 1-minute bursts with 90 seconds of recovery between each burst.   If you are less fit see  your doctor before beginning and start with three bursts.

  • Two minutes of warm-up.
  • Five 60-second bursts of activity, with 90 seconds recovery between each burst.
  • One minute of cool down.

Stress reduction:

Stress is a given in most human lives.  The question is, how well do we manage it?  Learning centering practices that help manage stress is of great value.  I typically recommend breathing practices to all of my patients.  Our breath is free, portable, accessible, and the practices are not time consuming.  Instructions for the 4-7-8 breath can be found here.   In addition, yoga, meditation, tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation can be useful tools for many.

Selected Articles

Foraging for Healthy Food in the Global Economy: Ten Steps We Can All Take (Explore Journal, Diet and Nutrition, December 2008)

Natural healer: How Victoria Maizes is taking integrative medicine mainstream In 2009 I was honored to be named one of the the world’s 25 intelligent optimists!  (ODE Magazine, February 2009, The Intelligent Optimist Issue)

How Integrative medicine can help your health (CNN Health, May 2010)

Battling Cancer: Bringing More Options to the Fight (Tucson Lifestyle, In Health, June 2011)

The Skinny on Whole-Fat Dairy (Organic Spa Magazine, October 2011)