More often than not, doctors are there, ready for you, when you have a medical problem. They write your prescription, order your tests, schedule your surgery. While that strategy works for infections, broken bones, and the like, there is a glitch in the system.
"Healthcare also needs to be about preventing problems in the first place," said William Davis, M.D., author of Undoctored: Why Health Care Has Failed You and How You Can Become Smarter Than Your Doctor. Keeping people healthy, however, is not very profitable. And that's why Dr. Davis proposes a DIY approach to feeling good.
Health Tips that'll keep you out of the doctor's office
The key to feeling your best, according to Davis: Avoid your doctor.
"I truly believe that people can manage their own health safely and responsibly and attain superior results to those achieved through a doctor," he says. How? Focus on the big picture. "When you aim for lifestyle tweaks or strategies that bring overall good health, instead of addressing specific symptoms, the majority of health conditions recede or disappear completely," he said. Dr. Davis' number one big-picture strategy: eliminating wheat and grains from one's diet. An expert in his field and one of the first to discover the downsides of wheat, here are more of Dr. Davis' tips to help you take control of your health, no pricey Rxs or co-pays required.
Eat “naked” foods. Modern diets are not built to bolster health. In fact, they do quite the opposite. “We rely heavily on packaged and processed foods, which are rife with cheap fillers that amplify appetite,” Dr. Davis said. “They also contain many herbicides, pesticides, and preservatives that alter gut flora and cause hormonal disruption.” All of this set us on the path to conditions like IBS, inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases, and so much more.
The solution: Tip the balance so your diet contains markedly more fresh, local, organic foods than pre-boxed, manufactured items. “Naked foods are free of all the nonsense that modern processed foods have,” Dr. Davis said. While organic can seem expensive, Dr. Davis noted that once you start to shun more and more processed foods, you’ll be saving money. “For example, if an entire family eliminated grains from their diet, it would be the equivalent of removing a person from your family in grocery costs,” he said.
DIY your magnesium. Think nutrition deficiencies are reserved for third world countries? Think again. Almost half of us consumes less than the required amount of magnesium, an essential mineral for heart and blood vessel health, and more. “Our water filtration takes out the magnesium. And many meds, like Prilosec and Nexium, block magnesium absorption, as does wheat consumption,” Dr. Davis said.
To easily re-up your magnesium, Dr. Davis recommends making your own supplement. Simply pour out a few tablespoons of seltzer from a two-liter bottle, then slowly add three tablespoons of unflavored milk of magnesia. (Shake magnesia first.) Next, cap the seltzer, shake until the sediment dissolves, and let it sit for 15 minutes, allowing the liquid to clarify. Drink four ounces twice a day. “Many OTC magnesium supplements don’t work because they’re not well-absorbed. But this contains magnesium bicarbonate, a highly absorbable form that restores loss with the least potential for diarrhea,” Dr. Davis said.
Instead, add a bit of jumping to your daily exercise routine. “First, it’s important to do a moderate level of activity, like walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes, five times a week,” Dr. Davis said. “Next, add 10 to 20 jumps twice a day to engage your long axis, which encompasses the spine, hips, and legs.” This encourages bone growth and prevents bone loss. “It’s berserk that doctors rarely tell patients to do this,” Dr. Davis said. “This should always be the first line of action for bone health.” You can literally jump up and down or engage in similar activities, such as playing tennis, jumping rope, or biking.
“Package” your sleep. Poor sleep makes you feel lousy. “It saps energy, increases appetite, ups your risk for dementia, and cardiovascular issues,” Dr. Davis said. On the flip, snagging the right amount of Zz's allows your brain, your tissues, and cells time to repair, restore, and grow.
“While everyone’s personal sleep requirement is different, sleep occurs in packages lasting 90 minutes, meaning it takes that amount of time to complete a sleep cycle,” Dr. Davis said. “If you’re woken up before the cycle concludes, you’re left groggy and out of sorts all day.” To properly package your own sleep, calculate when you generally fall asleep, then set your alarm for a period of time that represents some multiple of 90 minutes. For extra help, try a sleep-tracking app such as Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock by Northcube AB (free for the iPad or iPhone), which measures varying phases of sleep then uses the info to gently wake you when you’re in a light sleep phase.
Skip the middleman. We often complain that doctors order too many tests, but it turns out they might actually be skimping on the right ones. For instance, “doctors aren’t regularly testing patients to see if they’re low in vitamin D, though most are. And they’re not properly checking thyroid function either,” Dr. Davis said.
And if they are testing, they’re not interpreting tests like you may think. “Doctors often look for average results, but average doesn’t mean healthy. We should all be striving for ideal numbers, not okay numbers,” he said.
Instead of waiting for your annual visit and not getting the tests you want, Dr. Davis suggested doing it yourself. “In most states, you can order your own at-home tests and typically pay up to 80 percent less than what’s charged insurance companies. A thyroid screener, for instance, may cost about $600 at the doctor’s office but only cost you $90 if you do it yourself. Plus, there’s no co-pay,” Dr. Davis said. (Some direct-to-consumer companies include DirectLabs.com, ZRTlab.com)
When you get the results, Dr. Davis recommended going to condition-specific online support groups or catch-all medical support like PatientsLikeMe.com to crowdsource and ask a lot of questions. “Don’t look at websites that are supported by pharma, though. If there are drug ads, avoid it,” he said. "Once you gauge what others are doing, consider consulting a physician who’s more apt to support your take-charge attitude. “In my experience, integrative health and functional medial practitioners are far more likely to be champions of health as opposed to champions of meds," Dr. Davis said.
Cultivate a gut garden. The right balance of intestinal bacteria can help you stay slim, bolster immunity, keep the blues away, and more. “But today, disrupted bowel flora, also called dysbiosis, is the rule, rather than the exception,” Dr. Davis said. “We can change that, however, by treating our gut like a backyard garden.”
You’ve already prepared the soil if you’ve loaded up on organic and removed most processed foods. Next: Plant the seeds, which are high-potency probiotics. Look for ones that contain at least a dozen species of bacteria and about 50 billion organisms, Dr. Davis said. (One Dr. Davis likes: Renew Life Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic 100 Billion; 30 capsules for $33.85)
While the good ones are pricey, most people only need to take them for six to eight weeks. Once you are a couple weeks in, start with the water and fertilizer, which is prebiotic fiber, Dr. Davis said. This fiber cannot be digested, allowing microorganisms to do the job. Add things like jicama (it tastes like a savory apple), garlic, onions, and legumes to the daily mix. “I also love adding a green banana to smoothies. They have to be green, though, to get the prebiotics,” says Dr. Davis.