February 10, 2009

Preventative Medicine

Scenario: you haven't been to the doctor in years. Maybe you have a couple minor things bothering you, but nothing seemingly major. Or could those minor problems lead to more? You know you should probably be making a visit to see where your health stands. You want to identify any problems early before they get out of hand. But the big question is ... where do you start?

In the past, the health industry and people in general have taken a more reactive approach to health. The tide is turning, and a growing number of people are becoming more educated on health and nutrition. We are even doing our own research and self-medicating; growing our awareness of different types of therapies available to the public. Today more insurance companies are covering preventative medicine than ever before. This is of great value because when it comes to long-term illnesses, you have to catch them early. More people are also opting for alternative forms of medicine such as naturopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and other less invasive therapies in lieu of medicating with pharmaceutical drugs that often have harmful side effects and interactions.

In today's blog, I will share with you how I personally went from simply tolerating my own minor health conditions to feeling the vibrant health that I once did in my childhood years.

Taking supplements can be beneficial, whether it's for a medical condition or being used as a dietary supplement. They typically have less side effects than pharmaceutical drugs. But if you do decide to go this route, it's very important to research the supplement you plan on taking. Understand its benefits and disadvantages; its efficacy; contraindications; recommended dosage based on your sex, age, weight. Brands are made of varying quality, so look at how it's manufactured if available. Consider the source of your research articles - are they written by a reputable source? Are the studies supporting its efficacy well-designed, or is there a marketing bias in the article? Understand that supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so you must accept this as a risk. However, it can also be very rewarding if you know what you're doing.

Periodic Checkups
Your primary care physician can tell you what sort of tests you should be undergoing given your age, sex, family medical history, and other factors. As a start, go to healthfinder.gov. Here you can find health screening checklists and vaccination schedules.

Blood Tests
Comprehensive blood tests are widely available and can be a quick indicator of problems related to cancer, diseases, inflammation, and more. When done through a wellness clinic instead of through a doctor, the results are even produced in a report that the average person can understand.

[EDIT: I've done general blood panels before, but I just recently did an allergy test to bring my health up yet another notch. The results of this test can be very enlightening for those that can't pinpoint the source of allergic reactions or sensitivities.]

Our bodies eliminate toxins through several means - through the kidneys (as urine), skin (as sweat), lungs (respiration) and bowels (as feces). But we should periodically help it along. This is done in part by not taking in new toxins. The other side to it is eliminating existing toxins in your body by following the detox programs below.

Detoxification Diet - consisting of a good diet, fiber, herbal supplements, probiotics, antioxidants, and enzymes. This type of detox will clear most toxins absorbed through the environment and the food we eat.

Heavy Metal Detox - either done intravenously or through oral chelation. Over time, heavy metals (lead, mercury, aluminum, etc.) build up in our cells and our brain. This can lead to a whole host of medical problems. Heavy metal chelation agents bind to heavy metals, allowing your body to flush them out.

Chemical Detox - Steam rooms (or saunas) are very effective at helping you sweat out chemical-based toxins such as pesticides or formaldehyde. Chemicals can get trapped in the fatty tissue of the body, making it difficult for your body to purge them through other means.

There are other types of detoxification, but these are the ones that I have gone through personally and found to be effective.

Personalized Medicine
And my favorite ... personalized medicine. Simply put, it involves the analysis of your DNA to determine your genetic tendencies. It gives your doctor an inside look to your personal health. It will reveal more clues about your family medical history, your genetic strengths and weaknesses, help to identify additional tests that should be administered, and will tell you how you can compensate for your weaknesses. Genova Diagnostics is an example of a company that works with doctors to offer affordable testing.

Of course, I couldn't undergo all these tests or treatments on my own. I work closely with a naturopathic doctor to provide the guidance I need and get the labs ordered. Some of these treatments are purely in the domain of naturopathy. A doctor of conventional medicine will often turn to pharmaceutical drugs for treatment, and there is arguably a smaller breadth of preventative tests and screenings available. I just think there's a right time and place for conventional medicine. However, it should always be considered as part of a holistic medicine approach. Leave no stone unturned; be proactive; and you too can achieve near perfect health.

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