It’s that time of year again, and you are trying to avoid it. A new year means time for another physical or annual exam. Many people delay this appointment, thinking it is a waste of time, since they feel just “fine.” Staying healthy, as we are all learning, is no longer a choice. For our energy, finances, relationships and productivity, living healthy naturally is a necessity.
Take charge of your health by booking that physical, but this time, get a real physical. The routine screening tests are important: Cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar evaluations and weight checks should be done on everyone, every year. We all know the critical ages for different procedures and can also mark each decade by the medical test of choice. For women, 21 begins cervical cancer screening, age 40 means mammograms, 50 greets us with a colonoscopy and 65 with screening for osteoporosis. For men, stress tests and colonoscopies also become a part of the annual exam vernacular. (1)
These tests are all great and important but will often still pick up diseases as they develop, rather than looking for risk factors in the body that may facilitate or enhance the expression of disease. A real physical will look more comprehensively at body chemistry.
We are all confused. Organic food, environmental chemicals and GMOs — where do they all fit into the landscape of staying healthy? With cancer leading the list of chronic diseases that many Americans battle, we should be checking our yearly detoxification status. Chemicals become problematic when our bodies stop processing them and our systems of “clean up” begin to fail.
The key detoxification systems are the liver, colon, kidney and skin. I will often find that a patient with poor gut health also has a higher load of heavy metals and environmental chemicals. Every religious tradition advocated some form of fasting or “gut rest” since this was an effective way to clean the belly and improve detoxification. Drinking water and sweating are time tested detoxification methods. Protecting the liver from overuse of medications and alcohol are also key to keeping detoxification efficient.
There is testing available today that tests detoxification capacity. In its simplest form, these tests look at liver, colon and kidney function. More involved and costly testing is also available, evaluating each person individually through genetic testing of specific mutations. This testing can then specify whether a patient can tolerate certain foods, medications or hormones.
Think about regular and consistent detoxification to keep yourself healthy. Use your annual exam as an opportunity to test this concept further.
We are all becoming more comfortable with the concept of inflammation. Those early muscle aches and pains can sometimes evolve into chronic joint pain, with an eventual diagnosis of some autoimmune disorder.
Have your markers for inflammation measured at your annual exam. If you do have some of the common symptoms of inflammation — muscle aches, joint pain, fatigue, and weight gain — then start an anti-inflammatory diet. These diets are often high in omega-3 fats while lower in gluten, dairy and sugar.
There are many supplements that help inflammation as well. Turmeric, a well-known spice in high doses (2-3 grams per day) and the herbal supplement boswellia are known anti-inflammatories. Starting these supplements early, before inflammation is present, is your best bet. (2)
Many women wait until pregnancy or menopause to have their hormones evaluated. This year, get all your hormones checked to determine where you stand. Young women should have their hormones checked as well. Understanding your hormone levels and your hormone detoxification status should be a part of every routine physical. Men should also have yearly hormone evaluations. Fluctuations in testosterone, insulin and thyroid lead to many common health conditions.
Finally, look closely at your oxygenation status — and think about keeping each cell vibrant and full of oxygen. Many diseases today are the sequelae of mitochondrial dysfunction, a sometimes inherited condition where the body demands more antioxidants than average. (3) Evaluating oxygenation status and creating a strong antioxidant regimen should be parts of a routine physical.
This year, get a real physical and understand your risks for disease. Catching these concepts early are the keys to living healthy naturally and redefining healthy.
Follow Tasneem Bhatia, M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@drtazmd