Find natural cures for more than 170 health conditions Packed with over 170 remedies for the most common ailments, from arthritis to varicose veins, Natural Cures For Dummies will serve as your complete health advisor. This user-friendly reference arms you with information on the symptoms and the root causes of each problem along with a proven, natural, customized prescription. Whether you are looking for relief from a particular nagging ailment or simply wish to obtain optimum health, Natural Cures For Dummies gets you on track to approaching healthcare from a natural standpoint. * Offers clear, expert guidance on dietary changes, healing foods, and natural supplements to treat common conditions * Includes down-to-earth descriptions of health problems and the range of natural remedies that can be used to manage them * Shows you how natural cures can treat over 170 of the most common ailments * Demonstrates how you can dramatically boost your health and wellbeing the natural way If you're navigating the sprawling world of alternative medicine and looking for a good place to start, Natural Cures For Dummies has you covered.
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Natural Cures For Dummies®
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2014954669
ISBN 978-1-119-03022-5 (pbk); ISBN 978-1-119-03017-1 (ebk); ISBN 978-1-119-03019-5
Table of Contents
About This Book
Icons Used in This Book
Beyond the Book
Where to Go from Here
Part I: Stepping into the Wonderful World of Natural Cures
Chapter 1: Getting the Lowdown on Natural Cures
Wrapping Your Brain around the Concept of Natural Cures
Recognizing Natural Medicine’s Many Benefits and Its Few Drawbacks
Comparing Conventional and Natural Medicine
Chapter 2: Adopting a Natural Cures Diet and Lifestyle
Changing What and How You Eat: Using Food as Medicine
Making Lifestyle Changes That Complement Natural Medicine
Chapter 3: Sampling Different Approaches to Natural Cures
Part II: Curing Common Maladies: Trustworthy Treatments at Your Fingertips
Chapter 4: Treating Injuries and Minor Ailments
Making Bruises Disappear
Heading Off Headaches
Preventing and Treating Heartburn
Alleviating the Pain and Swelling of Insect and Spider Bites and Stings
Moderating Motion Sickness
Soothing Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Reactions
Relaxing Sprains and Strains
Snuffing Out Sunburn
Chapter 5: Coughing and Sneezing? Curing Nose and Throat Conditions
Combatting a Cough
Clearing Up Laryngitis
Treating Sinus Congestion and Postnasal Drip
Snuffing Out Sneezing
Soothing a Sore Throat
Chapter 6: Combating Flus, Colds, and Infections
Boosting Your Immune System
Curing the Common Cold
Purging the Flu and Other Viruses
Mending MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus)
Flushing Internal Parasites Out of Your System
Clearing Your Lungs of Pneumonia
Shedding Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
Chapter 7: Healing Skin, Hair, Scalp, and Nail Conditions
Getting the Skinny on Skin Conditions
Scrubbing Away Hair and Scalp Conditions
Chipping Away at Nail Conditions
Chapter 8: Tuning In to Ear Problems
Oh, My Aching Ears! Eradicating Earaches
Treating a Ruptured Eardrum
Eliminating Earwax Buildup
Overcoming Hearing Loss
Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)
When the World Spins: Vertigo and Meniere’s Disease
Making Your Own Eardrops
Chapter 9: Ogling Eye and Vision Problems
Supporting Eye and Vision Health with Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Uncovering the Causes of Blurred Vision
Clearing Away the Clouds: Cataracts
Dealing with Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye)
Rejuvenating Dry Eyes
Giving Your Eyes a Break from Eye Strain
Relieving the Pressure of Glaucoma
Slowing Macular Degeneration’s Progression
Chapter 10: Addressing Mouth and Dental Conditions
Optimizing Oral Health
Banishing Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Conquering Canker Sores
Rejuvenating Chapped Lips
Dealing with Gingivitis and Other Gum Infections
Stopping Jaw Pain and Popping: Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction
Relieving a Toothache
Chapter 11: Kicking Leg and Feet Conditions to the Curb
Stomping Out Athlete’s Foot
Coping with Fallen Arches (Flat Feet)
Straightening Out a Case of Hammertoe
Handling Heel Spurs
Rooting Out Ingrown Toenails
Taming Plantar Fasciitis
Purging Plantar Warts
Straightening Out Your Feet: Pronation and Supination
Shoring Up Shin Splints
Clearing the Air: Stinky Feet
Vying with Varicose Veins
Chapter 12: Addressing Common Kiddie Health Issues
Adjusting Dosages for Children 12 Years Old and Under
Bringing Up Baby
Chicken Pox Survival Guide
Alleviating Growing Pains
Reducing the Risks of Childhood Vaccinations
Chapter 13: Alleviating Allergies, Asthma, and Food Sensitivity/Intolerance
Treating Asthma and Asthma Episodes
Tests to Identify Allergies
Treating Seasonal (Nasal) Allergies
Treating Food Allergies
Tackling Food Intolerances and Sensitivities
Sealing a Leaky Gut
Chapter 14: Battling Digestive, Urinary, and Bowel Conditions
Alleviating Digestive Disorders
Healing a Hiatal Hernia
Battling Bowel Disorders
Grappling with Gallstones and Gallbladder Problems
Treating Kidney Stones and Urinary Tract Infections
Chapter 15: Restoring Back, Joint, and Muscle Health
Tackling Arthritis in All Its Forms
Oh, My Aching Back! Treating Backache
Working Out Muscle Aches and Cramps
Chapter 16: Putting Sleep Issues to Bed
Resetting Your Internal Clock in Response to Jet Lag
Calming the Snoring Seas: Sleep Apnea
Relieving Restless Leg Syndrome
Getting a Leg Up on Sleepwalking
Chapter 17: Tackling Chronic Health Conditions
Easing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia
Dealing with Cardiovascular Conditions and Stroke
Delving into Diabetes and Other Blood Sugar Illnesses
Dealing with Autoimmune Disorders
Strengthening Your Bones: Osteoporosis
Taking the Punch out of Parkinson’s Disease
Chapter 18: Targeting Adrenal and Thyroid Conditions
Addressing Adrenal Fatigue and Stress
Doctoring Thyroid Disorders
Overcoming Pituitary Gland Dysfunction
Chapter 19: Addressing Sexual and Reproductive Health Conditions
Focusing on Women’s Reproductive Health
Focusing on Male Reproductive Health Issues
Coping with Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Chapter 20: Dealing with Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Issues
Supporting a Healthy Brain
Overcoming Alcoholism and Substance Abuse
Dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, and Other Cognitive Disorders
Relieving Anxiety Disorders
Pushing Past Bipolar Disorder
Beating Borderline Personality Disorder
Dealing with Depression
Taking the Bite Out of Eating Disorders
Part III: The Part of Tens
Chapter 21: Ten Ways to Get the Most Out of Natural Medicine
Consulting a Natural Healthcare Provider
Targeting Causes, Not Symptoms
Being Healthy Instead of Not Sick
Using Common Sense as Your Guide
Steering Clear of Miracle Cures
Taking Vitamins and Minerals in Their Better Forms
Being Skeptical of Expert Advice
Making Bold Changes
Eating Organic Foods Whenever Possible
Steering Clear of Food Fights
Chapter 22: Ten Rules of the Road
Eat More Plants
Avoid Sugar in All Forms
Eat Grains Rarely, If at All
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Drink Plenty of Water
Stop Eating When You’re 80 Percent Full
Get an Oil Change
Don’t Fall Victim to Pharmageddon
Get Enough Sleep
Chapter 23: Ten Natural Cure Maxims
Community Is the Cure
Treat the Patient, Not the Symptoms
You Are What You Eat Has Eaten
Pay the Farmer Instead of the Doctor
Food Is Your Best Medicine
Dread White Bread
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Let Your Genes Be Your Guide
Sleep on It
Part IV: Appendixes
Appendix A: Vitamins and Minerals
Appendix B: Nutritional Supplements
Appendix C: Natural Hormones
Appendix D: Herbs
Appendix E: Homeopathic Remedies
Appendix F: Aromatic Essential Oils
About the Author
Connect with Dummies
End User License Agreement
Table of Contents
I learned firsthand about the power of natural cures when a hit-and-run driver struck my then-16-year-old son Grant in September 2012. Among his injuries were a torn aorta, spinal fractures, skull fractures, and bleeding throughout his brain. As Grant lay in a coma, doctors offered a grim prognosis; they told us they could do nothing and advised us to let Grant go.
Western medicine provides numerous valuable contributions, but it often fails to see the bigger picture for healing and health. That’s where some of my closest friends — progressive doctors, nutritionists, and other healthcare professionals — selflessly provided their expertise to help heal Grant.
Bucking the status quo and implementing natural cures played a huge role in keeping Grant alive when doctors argued we had no hope. Eventually, he emerged from his coma and began to speak, every word becoming nothing short of a miracle. Grant not only survived; today he thrives. If I could glean a bright spot during that challenging time other than to never lose hope, I would emphasize how providing the right nutrients and other modifications can radically heal your body. That’s where Natural Cures For Dummies comes in.
In this user-friendly reference, Dr. Scott J. Banks couples cutting-edge information about symptoms and root causes with science-supported, safe “prescriptions” — healing foods, natural supplements, and lifestyle modifications — that, unlike pharmaceutical drugs or potentially invasive therapies, assist rather than work against your body’s natural ability to heal. Consider this comprehensive, expert-curated book your go-to guide to naturally heal numerous conditions that leave you tired, sick, overweight, and aging prematurely. Natural Cures For Dummies will empower you to take control and provide your body the nutrients it requires for healing and abundant health.
New York Times bestselling author of The Virgin Diet and Sugar Impact Diet
Modern medicine has made amazing strides toward combating infectious diseases and improving the quality of human life. Sanitation has nearly rid humans in developed countries of exposure to a host of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and nasty parasites. Vaccines have virtually eliminated many fatal or crippling diseases and have held many others at bay. Advances in medical imaging now enable doctors to look inside the body without opening it up. Anesthesia allows for pain-free surgeries. And through the miracles of modern medicine, many people have had their hearing and sight restored, limbs replaced with robotic prosthetics, and are even walking around with artificial hearts.
Yet something is missing. The steady decline of infectious diseases is matched with a comparable rise in chronic illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, autism, cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, heart disease, obesity, and osteoporosis. And the best that modern medicine can offer in fighting this rising epidemic is a whack-a-mole approach of treating symptoms with powerful prescription medications and surgeries that then trigger other illnesses that have other symptoms that must then be treated. Over time, many patients end up on a half dozen medications (or more), and they still feel lousy.
Natural medicine takes a different approach. Instead of treating symptoms or even illnesses, natural medicine focuses on identifying and treating underlying causes: nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, inefficiency in digestion and absorption of nutrients, the presence of heavy metals and other toxins, food allergies and sensitivities, structural imbalances, and dysregulation of the immune system, to mention a few. Natural medicine not only cures illness, but it also optimizes wellness.
Fed up with conventional medical treatments? Welcome to Natural Cures For Dummies, your key to curing illness and optimizing wellness through nutrition, supplements, herbs, lifestyle changes, and other nonconventional treatments that harness the body’s powerful self-defense and self-healing mechanisms.
Organized in an easy-to-access format and presented in plain English, this book introduces you to natural cures and takes you on a tour of common natural cures treatment approaches, including aromatherapy, Ayurveda, functional medicine, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy. In addition, you’ll find guidance on dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to instantly improve your health. I also provide natural prevention and cures for over 170 common ailments, explaining which nutrients, supplements, herbs, and other treatments are most effective in addressing the underlying causes of these ailments.
You’ll also find appendixes that cover vitamins and minerals, nutritional supplements, natural hormones, herbs, homeopathic remedies, and essential oils. These vital references can be used time and again as you embrace natural remedies to protect and promote optimal health in yourself and your family.
Although I encourage you to read every single word of this book from start to finish, you’re welcome to skip around to acquire your knowledge on a need-to-know basis and completely skip the sidebars (shaded gray) and anything flagged with a Technical Stuff icon. Although this information may be too fascinating to ignore, it’s not essential.
During the writing of this book, I adopted a few conventions to help convey the content as simply and clearly as possible and highlight important information:
All doses given are for adults unless otherwise specified. See
for guidance on converting to doses for children and for adults who weight less than 150 pounds.
Doses appear in the unit most commonly used for each supplement, usually grams (g), milligrams (mg), micrograms (mcg), and United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Colony forming units (CFUs) indicate the number of live organisms (bacteria or yeast) in a probiotic that are capable of reproducing to form a group.
When specified, the better form of a supplement appears in parentheses directly after the supplement; for example, “vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin, sublingually in a fast-dissolving tablet).” The better form is more easily processed and used by the body or is best for a specific condition.
Within this book, you may note that some web addresses break across two lines of text. If you’re reading this book in print and want to visit one of these web pages, simply key in the web address exactly as it’s noted in the text, pretending as though the line break doesn’t exist. If you’re reading this as an e-book, you’ve got it easy — just click the web address to be taken directly to the web page.
The fact that you’re reading this book tells me that you’re probably not feeling as well as you know you should feel and that you haven’t had much success with conventional medical treatment. Maybe you’re taking a prescription medication that’s causing side effects that are worse than the illness itself. Perhaps you’re worried about the long-term effects of being on multiple medications. Whatever the reason, you’re not satisfied with what conventional medicine has to offer, and you’re looking for a better way.
Other foolish assumptions I’ve made about you include the following:
You want to optimize health and not merely rid yourself of illness.
You’re committed to making bold changes to your diet and lifestyle to achieve and maintain wellness.
You’re eager to transition from your passive role as patient to a more active role as doctor-patient.
You’re ready to start listening to and learning from what your body is telling you it needs and needs to avoid to function at its best.
You recognize that conventional medical treatment is required for serious physical injuries and certain medical emergencies, including infectious diseases that threaten life or limb.
Throughout this book, icons in the margins highlight different types of information that call out for your attention. Here are the icons you’ll see and a brief description of each.
I want you to remember everything you read in this book, but if you can’t quite do that, then remember the important points flagged with this icon.
Tips provide insider insight. When you’re looking for a better, faster way to do something, check out these tips.
“Whoa!” This icon appears when you need to be extra vigilant or consult your healthcare provider before moving forward.
Occasionally, I feel compelled to delve deeper into the biology or physiology of a given health condition or treatment. When I do so, I give you a heads up with this icon, so you can skip the details and head right to the cure.
In addition to the abundance of information and guidance on harnessing the power of nature and your body’s self-protection and self-healing mechanisms, you also get access to even more help and information at www.dummies.com. Go to www.dummies.com/cheatsheet/naturalcures for a free cheat sheet that accompanies this book. It brings you up to speed on natural cure fundamentals, provides a list of junk foods to eliminate from your diet and healthy foods to eat more of, outlines a protocol for maintaining a healthy gut (the key to wellness), and tells you how to combat colds and other bacterial, viral, and fungal infections by enhancing your body’s immune response.
You can also head to www.dummies.com/extras/naturalcures for a few free supplemental articles that I think you’ll find helpful as you begin your journey to optimal health and well-being. Here you find out how to restore healthy gut bacteria after antibiotic treatment, discover ten key supplements to always keep on hand, and come to recognize why taking vitamins and minerals in their better forms is so important.
I structured this book so you could use it in a couple different ways. To get the most out of it, read it from cover to cover so you don’t miss out on any valuable information and insight. You may also use it as natural cures desk reference; when you’re not feeling well, simply look up your illness in the table of contents or the index and flip to the designated page to find the cure for what ails you. The appendixes also provide several quick references to nutritional and natural remedies.
I do recommend, however, that you start with the chapters in Part I. Chapter 1 provides a brief overview of the natural cures approach to wellness and gets you up to speed in a hurry on the theory behind the practice. In Chapter 2, I recommend diet and lifestyle changes that form the foundation of good health. And in Chapter 3, I take you on a tour of the different treatment approaches that comprise natural medicine, including Ayurveda, chiropractic, homeopathy, and functional medicine.
As you embark on your journey to optimal health, keep in mind that you’re a unique individual. Your DNA, body chemistry, and even the microbes living inside you are all very distinctive, so there is no one-size-fits-all path to wellness. I strongly recommend that you consult with a qualified natural medicine practitioner — a functional medicine practitioner, naturopath, osteopath, chiropractor, or other practitioner who has advanced training in functional medicine and natural cures — for an initial evaluation to identify any deficiencies or other conditions that may be getting in the way.
Visit www.dummies.com for free content that helps you learn more and do more.
In this part …
Get up to speed on the natural cures approach to curing illness and optimizing wellness through nutrition, lifestyle, herbal tonics, physical manipulation, homeopathic remedies, and other nonpharmaceutical treatments.
Build a solid wellness foundation by eliminating junk “food” from your diet, stocking up on healthy foods, establishing a reasonable exercise routine, and making other adjustments to your diet and lifestyle that provide your body with everything it needs for self-defense and self-healing.
Tour the various treatment approaches that make up natural medicine’s healthcare model, including aromatherapy, Ayurveda, biofeedback, chelation, functional and herbal medicine, acupuncture, osteopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, and nutritional medicine.
In This Chapter
Understanding nature’s role in curing illness
Weighing the pros and cons of natural cures
Knowing when to seek conventional care
Modern medicine does a pretty good job fighting infections and acute illnesses. Unfortunately, its track record for preventing and treating chronic illness is abysmal. In fact, many chronic illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and arthritis, are now epidemics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people in the United States spend 86 percent of their healthcare dollars on chronic diseases — most of which are preventable through diet and lifestyle changes.
When you go to a conventional doctor, however, you rarely get educated or trained in proper nutrition or a healthy lifestyle. Instead, the doctor hands you a prescription for a medication that typically treats the symptoms and has a laundry list of very scary side effects, few of which are mentioned at the time.
There’s a better way: Nature’s way.
Over the course of a couple million years, the human body has evolved to develop incredibly efficient self-defense and self-healing mechanisms. Yet when you visit a doctor complaining of an illness, the doctor typically disregards what nature has so carefully crafted and offers treatments cooked up in a laboratory, many of which degrade your body’s own healing power. Consider the use of antibiotics, which kill not only harmful bacteria but also healthy bacteria in your gut — bacteria that are essential for proper digestion, nutrition, and immune response.
Natural medical practitioners take a different approach. They work with nature to strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection and heal itself. In this section, I provide additional insight into the natural cures approach, provide some background on its history, reveal the science that supports it, and let you know what to expect from it as a patient.
Natural medicine is any healing practice that harnesses the power of nature, including the human body’s self-defense and self-healing mechanisms, to prevent and cure illness. Natural medicine includes the following practices:
Essential oils extracted from plants are used in numerous preparations, including massage oils and bath salts, to enhance physical and psychological well-being.
This traditional Hindu system of medicine seeks to establish healthy balance in mind, body, and spirit through diet, herbal formulations, and yoga.
This healing technique helps you control bodily processes normally thought to be outside an individual’s control. It does so by providing real-time monitoring and information about those processes as you perform techniques to regulate them.
Detoxification of heavy metals and other toxins from the body gets rid of harmful substances that your body isn’t geared to eliminate on its own.
Functional medicine is personalized medicine that recognizes and addresses each person’s individual genetic uniqueness and the complex interactions among genes, diet, and lifestyle.
This practice treats illness with plants or plant extracts and is perhaps the oldest form of medical practice.
Homeopathy treats illness by giving the patient minute doses of natural substances that would cause the same symptoms in a healthy person. The concept behind homeopathic remedies is similar to the concept behind vaccination, which deliberately exposes people to dead or weakened bacteria or viruses to protect them from infections caused by those organisms.
Massage and bodywork:
Manipulation of the body, primarily the bones, muscles, and nerves, to relieve tension and pain, establish balance, promote detoxification, or treat specific conditions comes in many forms, including chiropractic adjustments, traditional massage, acupuncture, reflexology, rolfing, Reiki, and shiatsu.
The Swiss Army Knife of natural healing, naturopathy uses numerous alternative treatments to promote healing and health, including diet and lifestyle counseling, herbs, homeopathy, massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and biofeedback.
Chiropractic treatment seeks to realign the spinal column and joints that cause pain and dysfunction related to the nerves, muscles, and organs of the body. Many chiropractors follow a functional medicine approach. Look for a chiropractor who’s received advanced training in functional medicine.
This approach uses food along with vitamins, minerals, and other supplements as medicine to cure illness and optimize health.
For more about these natural healing disciplines, check out Chapter 3. Head to the chapters in Part II for details on treating specific health conditions.
No two individuals are alike; effective treatment requires a personalized treatment plan. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to visit an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner (IFMCP) doctor or a naturopath for an initial evaluation to determine whether you have any food allergies or sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies, digestive disorders, or genetic vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. To find a practitioner who has trained with the Institute for Functional Medicine, visit www.functionalmedicine.org and click Find a Practitioner. To find a naturopath, visit www.naturopathic.org and click Find a Doctor.
Conventional science often questions the effectiveness of natural medicine by citing the dearth of well-designed clinical studies, but natural medicine actually has a growing body of scientific evidence to back it up. This evidence comes primarily in two forms:
Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled (RDBPC) clinical trials: RDBPC studies, which test the effectiveness and safety of medications, are the gold standard in the pharmaceutical industry. More and more, these same studies are used to test the effectiveness of alternative treatments, including nutritional supplements. In the U.S., the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is devoted exclusively to studying and reporting on the safety and effectiveness of alternative and complementary treatments; visit nccam.nih.gov for details.
RDBPC studies aren’t always suitable for testing natural treatments, however, because these treatments are often tailored to the individual patient’s needs and involve a combination of interventions, including dietary changes, nutritional support, exercise, and physical manipulation.
Investigations into human biology and physiology:
Advances in technology are revealing more and more about how the human body functions and how genetic, environmental, and lifestyle variables alone and together influence health and illness. For example, a recent study published in the journal
found that some of the bacteria living in the human body produce antibiotics, which help prevent and fight infections from certain harmful bacteria. This study provides additional support for the natural cures approach of supporting a healthy immune system with probiotics and avoiding the overuse of broad-range antibiotics that kill beneficial as well as harmful bacteria.
Science not only supports the use of natural medicine, but it also drives its development. Many reputable nutraceutical manufacturers now have their own research departments to develop and test products. (A nutraceutical is a food-based product that’s used as a medicine.) Among other advances, this research has helped to develop vitamins and minerals that are more easily and fully absorbed by the human body, probiotics that survive stomach acid exposure so more live microorganisms can populate the gut, and formulations that provide the right mix of nutritional supplements to support the proper function of various systems in the body, including the digestive, cardiovascular, and immune systems.
Buy products only from reputable manufacturers that have researched their products for effectiveness and that adhere to strict quality-control standards and practices; look for those that are Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) certified. I’ve been treating patients for 33 years and practicing functional medicine for over 20 years. I’ve seen many fly-by-night nutraceutical companies and poor-quality products come and go. Take the supplements in the form I recommend from reputable manufacturers. Otherwise, your body may not absorb them properly, and they may simply not work.
Natural medicine requires that you become an active participant in your own health. It requires commitment and sacrifice. You may need to eliminate from your diet some of your favorite foods and beverages. You need to exercise at least 30 minutes every other day. Most importantly, you need to invest time and effort in exploring what makes your body tick and figuring out what’s causing certain symptoms or what your body needs and isn’t getting to achieve optimum health.
The payoff is good health and vitality. Inflammation, at the root of many chronic illnesses, dissipates. You feel less congested and bloated and achy. You’re less susceptible to infections and chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. You add years — quality years — to your life. And if you do become ill, you know exactly what your body needs to kick its self-healing powers into high gear.
Before investing time, effort, and money in any endeavor, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons so that you can make a well-informed decision regarding the type of healthcare you want. In this section, I highlight the potential benefits and drawbacks of natural medicine as compared to conventional medicine.
A natural cures approach to health and healing offers numerous benefits, including the following:
Provides a user-friendly alternative to the typical doctor-patient interaction.
Natural medicine practitioners tend to treat people instead of illnesses. You’re more likely to get personalized care.
Treats the cause, not just the symptoms.
The natural cures approach attempts to identify and eliminate illness instead of merely suppressing symptoms. This approach is more likely to result in a cure.
Empowers you to take control of your own health.
A good natural healer is an educator, teaching you about your body and what it needs to be healthy. She doesn’t just hand you a prescription and send you on your way.
Eliminates or reduces prescription medication side effects.
One goal of natural medicine is to reduce or eliminate prescription medications from your daily regimen. Less prescription medication means fewer medication side effects. No prescription medication means no medication side effects.
Improves your overall health.
Natural medicine doesn’t merely eliminate illness; it strengthens the body overall. A body that’s in optimal condition is better able to fight infection and cure illness. Being healthy is far more desirable than merely being not sick.
Strengthens your immune system.
Your digestive tract accounts for 70 percent of your immune system. Conventional treatments often undermine gut health by killing beneficial microbes that reside in the gut. Natural medicine promotes gut health by enhancing digestion and nurturing a healthy environment in which beneficial microbes thrive.
Enhances your mood, energy, and endurance.
Conventional medicine screens people for illness. Natural medicine screens for deficiencies, allergies, and sensitivities to find out what to eliminate that’s making you sick and what your body needs for optimal function. As a result, natural medicine improves how you feel overall.
Saves money and time, due to fewer doctor visits.
Natural medicine teaches you how to be healthy so that you can develop the knowledge and skills to prevent illness and heal yourself. You may spend more time getting up to speed on the basics and more money on groceries and supplements, but preventing very costly chronic conditions that degrade your quality of life will likely save you much more in doctor bills, prescription costs, and time off work due to illness.
Admittedly, natural medicine has a few drawbacks, including the following:
It’s not always easy.
Natural medicine isn’t as easy as popping a pill. Overhauling your diet, exercising regularly, reducing stress, and learning about your body all require time and effort.
Sometimes, you have to fly solo. If you can’t afford a doctor and your insurance refuses to cover alternative healthcare options, you may need to fly solo with information in books and magazines and online.
Be careful when conducting online research. Snake oil salespeople run rampant on the Internet, and product reviews are often fictional. Stick to reputable sites run by reputable organizations, such as the Institute for Functional Medicine (www.functionalmedicine.org), the American College for Advancement in Medicine (www.acam.org), and Dieticians in Integrative and Functional Medicine (www.integrativerd.org).
Sometimes, natural treatments don’t work. Whether you’re receiving conventional or alternative treatments, you may need more than one trip to your healthcare provider to narrow down the root cause(s) of an illness and find an effective treatment or combination of treatments. Don’t let this discourage you; illness often involves complex interactions within the body, along with numerous environmental factors.
Keep a log of what works and what doesn’t work for you so that you don’t have to engage in a trial-by-error process the next time you come down with the same affliction.
Natural cures may take longer.
When treatment requires changes to diet and lifestyle, expect to see improvement in weeks and months, not overnight. Your body is composed of numerous interacting systems and billions of cells that need time to adapt to the changes you’re making.
Insurance may not cover some treatments. Natural medicine isn’t cheap, and insurance may refuse to cover the costs of doctor visits and supplements. Paying a steep health insurance premium and then having to pay out-of-pocket for healthcare is enough to discourage just about anyone. Hopefully, enlightened lawmakers may someday require insurance companies to cover the costs of nutritional supplements and visits to natural medicine practitioners.
To take some of the sting out of the costs, look into whether you can pay for consultations, testing, and supplements with pre-tax dollars from a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA).
Some “natural” cures are scams.
Because dietary supplements aren’t regulated as carefully by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as are pharmaceuticals, charlatans have an easier time producing and selling products with questionable benefits. To reduce your exposure to scams, I recommend that you purchase products only from reputable manufacturers and sellers. Visit my website,
for a list of reputable manufacturers.
The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.
—Sir William Osler (1849–1919), pioneering diagnostician, author, and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Throughout this book, I offer guidance on treating specific illnesses, but my approach to healing differs significantly from that of conventional medicine. In this section, I highlight the differences and point out situations in which conventional medicine is the better choice.
The distinction between conventional and natural medicine boils down to the difference in their goals. Conventional medicine seeks to eliminate illness, while natural medicine seeks to optimize wellness. This is especially true for the type of medicine I practice — functional medicine. While conventional medicine focuses on battling infections and symptoms of illnesses, such as asthma, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, heart disease, and obesity, with symptom-suppression pharmaceuticals, functional medicine seeks to treat the imbalances or dysfunctions in the body that give rise to these illnesses.
The imbalances and dysfunctions that natural medicine treats include the following:
Overactive or underactive immune system
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances
Poor digestion and nutrient absorption
Structural imbalances, such as spinal misalignment
Functional medicine seeks to restore health by giving the body what it needs for optimal function and removing anything that gets in the way. As a result, it leads to more durable, long-term solutions to chronic illness.
Preventive medicine is getting a lot of press these days, because even conventional medicine practitioners are realizing that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Unfortunately, the prevention offered by conventional medicine typically comes in the form of early detection and treatment, and the treatment rarely targets the underlying cause of these illnesses.
Attend just about any hospital-sponsored health fair, and you’ll see all sorts of screenings for cholesterol, atherosclerosis, blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. What you don’t see are screenings for many of the underlying causes of disease mentioned earlier in this section: vitamin and mineral deficiencies, impaired digestion and mineral absorption, and so on.
Conventional health screenings are great, but they’re only the first step toward identifying and treating underlying conditions that give rise to illnesses. An enlightened physician may suggest making changes to diet and lifestyle, such as reducing the amount of salt you eat or cutting down on sweets, and your insurance company may offer discounts on gym memberships and exercise equipment, but without a treatment tailored to address deficiencies and dysfunctions, you’re fighting a losing battle.
During a visit with a natural medicine practitioner, you can expect a much more thorough assessment of your health that’s likely to include tests to detect vitamin and mineral deficiencies, hormone imbalances, food allergies and sensitivities, and gut health. And your treatment will focus on optimizing health so that your body has everything it needs to fight infection and heal itself and you have the information you need to remove anything that’s getting in its way.
No treatment is completely void of negative side effects, but natural treatments are much safer than those offered by conventional medicine, which usually involve prescription medications, risky medical procedures, and surgeries. The use of prescription medications is particularly dangerous, because many prescription medications cause side effects that require additional prescription medications to counter. Patients frequently end up taking a dozen medications or more and end up feeling as miserable as or worse than ever.
This never-ending cycle of diagnosis followed by prescription doesn’t happen with a natural/nutritional approach to healing, because the natural approach treats the causes of illness instead of trying to play whack-a-mole with whatever symptoms happen to pop up during an office visit.
Natural cures are much safer than most treatments offered by conventional medicine, but natural herbs and supplements, even vitamins, carry some risks. Although I provide general guidelines on which supplements, herbs, probiotics, and other nutraceuticals to take and how much, I encourage you to consult a qualified natural medicine practitioner for guidance. If a supplement is powerful enough to heal you, it’s powerful enough to harm you if you take too much or if it’s something your body can’t process.
Conventional medicine isn’t all bad. In fact, I recommend it over the natural approach for injuries, life-threatening emergencies, and acute illnesses, such as heart attack, lung infection (such as pneumonia), asthma or allergy attacks, renal (kidney) failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, certain bacterial infections, cancer, and alcohol or drug overdose.
Natural medicine is better suited to preventing and treating chronic conditions, including asthma, allergies, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, fibromyalgia, and obesity. The increasing prevalence of chronic illnesses in the U.S. is sufficient proof that the current model for preventing and treating chronic illness not only doesn’t work but also contributes to this trend. By exploring natural medicine as an alternative approach, you’re taking a big first step in reversing this trend in your own life and the lives of the people you touch.
In This Chapter
Replacing junk with food
Exercising and de-stressing
Most illness results either from a genetic susceptibility combined with physical or emotional stressor or from a weak immune system exposed to an infectious agent — a bacteria, virus, or fungus. You can’t do anything to correct an underlying genetic vulnerability, but you can do a great deal to boost your immune system and avoid stressors that trigger illness — poor diet, emotional tension, and environmental toxins. In this chapter, I recommend changes to diet and lifestyle that strengthen your body’s ability to prevent illness while reducing your exposure to common stressors that trigger illness.
Scientists are beginning to discover that food is more than mere sustenance. Not only does food fuel the body and provide the basic building blocks for growth and development, but it also conveys information. Foods can flip switches in the DNA to trigger numerous illnesses and health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, and neurocognitive disorders. To improve health and reverse the course of disease, treat food as medicine and start making better food choices. This section shows you how.
The standard American diet (SAD), heavy in sugars and grains, is highly inflammatory, which is why it’s so bad for you. The foods I recommend constitute what could be considered an anti-inflammatory diet. Throughout this book, when I mention adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, I’m recommending the diet described in this chapter.
Fewer than ten foods are responsible for triggering most cases of inflammation and numerous autoimmune disorders in humans: wheat, soy, dairy, sugar, corn, eggs, peanuts, artificial sweeteners, and trans fats. To find out whether any of the items on this list ails you, I encourage you to get tested for food allergies and sensitivities, as explained in Chapter 13, or perform a modified elimination diet. Table 2-1 lists the most common culprits to test.
You can do an elimination diet in a couple of different ways.
Remove a suspect food from your diet for 28 days. If you feel better without it, you can eliminate that food from your diet for good, reintroduce it to see whether it really does cause problems, or get tested to confirm or rule out your suspicions. If you notice no difference whether you eat or abstain from eating the food, you can add it back into your diet.
Eliminate for 28 days foods that are most likely to cause problems and then slowly re-introduce them, one every two to three weeks, until your symptoms return. Then eliminate any food(s) that triggered symptoms.
Don’t eat even a small amount of the food you’re testing for the entire duration of the 28-day period. If you’re allergic to that food and you eat even a small amount, the antibodies to that food remain elevated in your system, and you may not notice an improvement in symptoms, defeating the purpose of the elimination diet.
Table 2-1 Performing a Modified Elimination Diet
Include These Foods
Exclude These Foods
Fresh or unsweetened frozen fruits, unsweetened fruit juices, avocado
Oranges, orange juice, dried fruit
Raw, fresh, steamed, sautéed, juiced, or roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes, and yams
Corn, creamed vegetables
If you have arthritis, also exclude nightshade vegetables and spices made from those vegetables: tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplants, peppers, paprika, salsa, chili peppers, cayenne, and chili powder
Starch, bread, cereal
Rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, teff, tapioca, buckwheat, gluten-free oats processed in a plant that doesn’t process wheat
Wheat, barley, spelt, khorasan, rye, triticale
Any beans, lentils, peas, and hummus not listed in the “Exclude” column
Soybeans, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy sauce, edamame, other soy products
Nuts and seeds
Almonds, cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds (tahini), sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds; butters made from these nuts; seeds that do not contain added ingredients
Peanuts, peanut butter
Meat and fish
All canned (water-packed), fresh, or frozen low-mercury fish; wild game; pastured, hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken, turkey, and grass-fed lamb
Beef, pork, cold cuts, frankfurters, sausage, canned meats, eggs, shellfish
Rice, hemp, almond, or coconut milk — all unsweetened and without soy
Milk from animals; products made from milk or cream (cheese, cottage cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream, frozen yogurt); non-dairy creamers
For cooking: Coconut oil, palm oil, ghee, cold-pressed olive oil
No heat: Flax, safflower, sunflower, sesame, walnut, pumpkin, and almond oils
Margarine, butter, shortening, processed (hydrogenated) oils
Filtered or distilled water, herbal tea, seltzer, or mineral water
Soda, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, coffee, nonherbal tea, other sweetened or caffeinated beverages
Herbs, spices, and condiments
Vinegar, any spices not listed in the “Exclude” column
Chocolate, ketchup, mustard, relish, chutney, soy sauce, teriyaki, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, and sandwich spreads
Read on to discover more about the foods that commonly trigger inflammation, autoimmune illnesses, and other disorders and why each one is a trigger for illness in a large portion of the population.
Today’s wheat isn’t the wheat your ancestors ate. It doesn’t even resemble the wheat consumed during the 1980s. Modern wheat is grown and processed in ways that strip out vital nutrients and produce a high-starch flour that spikes blood sugar and insulin levels and triggers inflammation and immune reactions in many people.
Although you may be immune to the nasty side effects of consuming modern wheat, people with celiac disease can’t consume a single morsel of wheat without experiencing a severe reaction resulting in abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramps, malabsorption of nutrients, and weight loss. And for every person who has celiac disease, at least eight others suffer from nonceliac gluten sensitivity, which is often linked to inflammation, migraines, allergic reactions, eczema, cardiovascular events, and neurological disorders.
Regardless of whether you’re experiencing symptoms, eliminate wheat/gluten from your diet for the next 28 days and take note of how you feel. I’d bet dollars to those donuts you’re no longer eating that you’ll feel better, eat less, and achieve a healthier, stable weight with lower body fat.
Here’s a way to cut 400 calories from your diet: Eliminate wheat. Approximately 25 years ago, scientists discovered that wheat stimulates appetite. In fact, eating wheat makes the average person consume an additional 400 calories a day. Eliminate wheat from your diet, and you won’t feel as hungry. You’ll drop weight without even trying.
Don’t simply go gluten-free. Many gluten-free products are nothing more than junk food, using various starches and guar gum as substitutes for white flour. These white-flour substitutes may spike blood sugar and insulin levels even more than does white flour. Go gluten-free, but at the same time avoid loading up on gluten-free starches, such as breads and pastas. These items should be a very small portion of your diet; eat a small serving only once or twice a week.
Soy is so abundant in “health foods” that most people actually think it’s healthy. However, 90 percent of all soy in the United States is derived from genetically modified organism (GMO) crops and is overly processed. Soy messes with your hormones and often triggers thyroid disorders. If your thyroid antibodies are high, eliminating soy from your diet can bring them down into normal range. Soy is also rich in phytic acid, which blocks absorption of key minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and zinc. It also blocks trypsin, an important enzyme for digesting protein.
If you choose to consume soy, make sure it’s verified organic (non-GMO) and eat soy only in the form of fermented products, such as tempeh, tofu, and miso. Unless you’re born in a culture raised on soy products, eat it only once or twice a week. Soy lecithin is permitted, because it doesn’t contain the allergenic protein.
Regardless of how they’re manufactured, all dairy products contain hormones and other potentially harmful substances, such as D-galactose, a carbohydrate associated with inflammation, oxidative stress, and neurodegeneration. Dairy can make you fat and may contribute to insulin resistance and osteoporosis (weak, porous bones). In addition, dairy is highly allergenic and addictive. Contrary to the ads, it doesn’t do a body good.
Replace dairy with high-calcium foods that are actually good for you: Brazil nuts, broccoli, flaxseeds, kale, sardines, spinach, walnuts, and wild Alaskan salmon. Replace cow milk with unsweetened, fortified oat, almond, hemp, or rice milk. Try dairy-free coconut yogurt and kefir; look for products with less sugar and additives. Switch to vegan-style rice milk cheeses as substitutes.
Eggs may be good or bad for you. To find out, take a break from eggs for 28 days and then start eating them again once or twice a week. (Be sure to read labels carefully, because many food products contain eggs.) Journal how well you feel on and off eggs. If you feel better without eggs, you may have an egg allergy or sensitivity and may want to avoid them entirely.
However, don’t be too eager to eliminate eggs altogether from your diet. Eggs are a super food. The yolks, which many anti-egg people suggest you throw away, are a nutritional gold mine. And contrary to popular belief, eggs aren’t the prime culprit in raising serum cholesterol or increasing the risk of heart disease.
If you can eat eggs, buy eggs collected from pastured chickens that haven’t been fed a diet of corn and soy. Don’t be fooled by eggs labeled “free-range” or “organic,” because these labels are part of a marketing ploy by big agricultural producers. Although they might be allowed a small space to range and may be fed organic grain-based feed, these chickens are not pastured as nature intended. They’re better than conventional in that they don’t contain GMO-feed and hormones, but eggs from farm-raised pastured chickens are best.
Nearly 90 percent of all corn is genetically modified. The DNA in the corn marries the DNA of gut flora, contributing to microbial imbalance and leaky gut (see Chapter 13).
Corn also contains aflatoxin, a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent); lectins, which can cause inflammation and interfere with absorption of nutrients; and zein, a kind of gluten that is okay for people with celiac disease but is still inflammatory to many and may also contribute to autoimmune and gut-related health issues.
Replace corn with healthier alternatives, including organic beets, green peas, snow peas, sweet potato, and winter roots or squashes (acorn or butternut squashes, parsnips, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and turnips). If you do eat corn, eat it sparingly, and eat only non-GMO varieties. Eliminate from your diet high-fructose corn syrup, a known toxin that raises triglyceride levels and blood pressure; fails to stimulate insulin production, resulting in overeating and contributing to obesity; increases intestinal permeability, enabling food particles and other large molecules that are supposed to stay inside the intestines to leak out into surrounding areas; and causes inflammation.
Even if you’re not allergic to peanuts, avoid them as much as possible. Peanuts and peanut butter are likely to contain aflatoxin, a carcinogen produced by the Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus molds, and lectins, indigestible proteins that commonly trigger an immune response. In addition, most commercial peanut butters are high in sugar and trans fats (see upcoming sections covering these items).
Replace peanuts with healthier alternatives: almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, coconut (unsweetened), macadamia nuts, walnuts, and pecans (and butters made from these nuts), but read the labels carefully to make sure these healthy nuts don’t contain unhealthy added ingredients, such as cottonseed oil.
Sugar is a major factor contributing to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and the average person in the U.S. consumes a whole lot of it — 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour (which quickly converts to sugar in the body) per year.
Don’t add sugar to foods or beverages, and avoid foods or beverages with added sugar. Read labels closely to identify added sugar. Most ingredients that end in -ose are sugars, including sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, galactose, lactose, high-fructose corn syrup, and glucose solids. Sugar goes by other names, as well: agave, barley malt, brown rice syrup, buttered syrup, caramel, carob syrup, corn syrup, dextran, dextrin, diatastic malt, ethyl maltol, fruit juice, golden syrup, honey, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maple syrup, molasses, refiner’s syrup, sorghum syrup, and turbinado.
Taper sugar consumption gradually. Sudden elimination of sugar is likely to make you feel exhausted, irritable, and famished. To ease the transition, replace the worst sugars (agave, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, and sucrose) with lower impact sugars — brown sugar, cane sugar, cane juice, coconut nectar, raw honey, grade B maple syrup, and stevia (not Truvia, which is primarily a GMO-corn-based sugar alcohol combined with a small amount of stevia extract and “natural flavors,” whatever those are).
Be very careful of foods advertised as low-fat or nonfat. In almost all cases, the fats have been replaced with sugar.
Steer clear of artificial sweeteners, which stimulate insulin production, increase sugar cravings, and stimulate glycation, a major cause of premature aging and cognitive decline. Artificial sweeteners include aspartame, NutraSweet, saccharin, Splenda, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium (Acesulfame K or Ace K). Truvia is another sugar substitute to avoid.
Try using xylitol as your sugar substitute. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol extracted from birch trees and other plant sources. It helps prevent cavities and plaque formation on teeth and is used in nasal sprays to reduce ear infections in children. Start slowly (less than 15 g daily), because xylitol may cause gastric distress if you take too much too quickly.
Although some meat and dairy products contain trans fats (trans fatty acids), most trans fats are manufactured through a process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, creating a product that’s solid at room temperature. Food producers love trans fats because they’re inexpensive, improve the texture of food, and increase a food’s shelf life.
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