Forgotten Pearls: Taking Charge of Your Personal Health

As a physician, I’m supposed to wow you with all my knowledge and jargon that affirms my extensive education and rigorous medical training. It also boosts my ego. Everyone needs that to survive, right? The problem with this mindset is few people will really benefit from my training. The word doctor means teacher, and the best teacher is the one who can transfer meaningful information that is practical, memorable, and simple. If people really understood just how easy it is to live a long and healthy life, I’m convinced more would pursue it. But in the interest of making money, promoting a busy medical practice, and serving our own personal interests, most doctors tend not to shoot straight when it comes to treating and caring for patients on a daily basis.

For example, if I were a dermatologist, I would never tell my patients to stop using soap, and to take a brief, tepid shower only once or twice a week at most, without scrubbing. This advice is too effective at curing skin problems like eczema, xerosis, and psoriasis. I wouldn’t explain that the outer skin (epidermis), with its seven layers, has a self-cleansing, self-protective mechanism that works great in preventing infections. Or that scrubbing and lathering with soap destroys this natural barrier. I treated 99 percent of my patients’ skin problems. And I did teach this basic science. Few returned with new skin problems. I lost money. I could have recommended steroid creams, emollients, and the newest expensive skin products from pharmaceuticals, and made a lot more money. But instead, I taught them. What would Jesus have done?

I also taught my patients that generic Pedialyte (oral hydration solution) is the first-line therapy (never Gatorade!) for treating most flu-like symptoms, such as headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, fatigue, and lightheadedness. Why? Because it works. (Use the unsweetened version if diabetic.) Sure, the intracellular electrolyte imbalances and altered cell membrane permeability of the gastrointestinal tract might be nice to know; but it’s not at all necessary. Fortunately, if patients heed this simple self-treatment, then I never see them back for most flu-like illnesses since treatment is available over-the-counter. Granted, severe upper respiratory illness may still require prescription medications, like steroids and inhalers. Don’t count on getting ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine since some states make it very hard to prescribe. It’s okay, I never prescribed these, and all my patients recovered quickly.

What about all the vitamins and minerals that are so frequently advertised as a source of “natural” health? Did you say natural? I’ll say right up front, this is only one humble doctor’s opinion. Remember that anything in pill or capsule form, as well as most liquid supplements, comes from a pharmaceutical company that can make whatever claims it wants about its product since it is not FDA regulated. (Does anyone still trust the FDA?) Who says taking 1000 times the recommended daily value of any vitamin or mineral is natural or safe? Is it really beneficial? If you really want to go natural, then eat a good variety of fruits and vegetables daily, preferably raw. You’ll get all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs. This is the form in which the body is designed to absorb nutrients best. You’ll feel better-ingesting whole (unprocessed) foods. After all, how did our ancestors ever survive before pill factories pumped out their products? And don’t be afraid to eat a little meat and fat.

Another simple yet crucial health step is to stay well hydrated by drinking plain water. Skip the expensive and calcium-depleting carbonated beverages, bottled spring water, and other “boosted” beverages. They’re gimmicky.

On a humanitarian military medical assignment in Panama, I was amazed at how many patients I treated for frequent headaches, muscle cramps, and fatigue simply because they didn’t know the importance of drinking adequate water. How much water? The eight 8-ounce glasses a day recommendation was pulled from thin air. Scrap it. For an inactive person, at least 32 ounces a day is a good starting point. Drink more if you are physically active or working in a hot environment.

And what about all those great antioxidants advertised by health food stores? The truth is, studies have shown that many of these “anti-aging/anti-cancer” pills can actually be harmful, as can many other supplements that may cause liver damage and other metabolic problems. But you will not hear about this from the media. You know why. What’s the best antioxidant and immune booster? Regular exercise. I know, exercise is actually an oxidative process, but it indirectly strengthens immunity and promotes efficient metabolism. Walking 3-4 miles a day is a great way to stay fit and maintain ideal body mass, as well as to promote general health. Obesity is second only to smoking in reducing lifespan and quality of life. You’ve likely already heard about the increased risk of COVID harm among the obese. But it’s the same for all other common illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, and skin maladies. Exercise is truly the best prescription for everything!

When it comes to healthy eating, it’s hard to beat raw fruits and vegetables, but we also need adequate protein and some carbs that provide enough energy to meet metabolic demands. Natural sugars in fruits are a great carb and fiber base. The brain can use only two sources of energy, sugar, and ketones. You may have heard about the “keto diet.” Ketones are breakdown products of body fat that are used by the brain in the absence of dietary (ingested) sugar. For this reason, a ketogenic (or modified keto) diet is a very effective way to lose weight without starving yourself. But sugar is addictive, and many people crave it like any other drug.

When trying to overcome addiction, a general pattern exists in recovery. I call it the “Rule of 3s,” and it generally applies to any type of addiction you’re striving to overcome. It takes three days to experience full withdrawal, more or less depending on how fast the substance is processed in the body, measured by its half-life. The withdrawals (cravings) tend to last about three weeks, and then taper off. By three months, you’re pretty much at your baseline metabolism, and most people actually dislike the taste of the former addictive substance after this time. Once you’ve made it to three years, you can look back and see clearly how healthy lifestyle changes improve your quality of life. Addiction is much more common than we like to think. Have you ever said, “Don’t talk to me until I have my coffee?” That’s called caffeine withdrawal. But is caffeine itself an unhealthy addiction?

If you look back on the reported effects of caffeine according to past medical research, you’ll be amazed at how fickle, and bipolar are the research conclusions. One week it’s good for you, the next it’s bad for you, and then it’s good again. This happens with many medical claims. Things once declared good for you are later considered dangerous. This yo-yo research data can be quite unnerving, even for doctors. Who are we supposed to believe? What does a doctor tell his patients?

It’s really quite simple; just use a little common sense. The less processed the food consumed, the better. Variety is good, and fresh whole foods (foods in their natural form) are always best. But don’t get carried away with “natural” products. Hemlock, strychnine, and cyanide are all natural—but they can kill you! And remember, pills don’t grow on trees. Be cautious with nutraceuticals. They never provide the “miracles” they claim.

One last but important tidbit is this: remember that being happy is very healthy for you. Laughter does good for both mind and body. Worry and fear can destroy us. The best way to put aside fear is to trust in the Lord with all your heart. And that’s why reading the Bible daily is an exercise that promotes a sound mind, body, and soul. Above all else, Bible reading is my pill of choice.

These are just a few forgotten but precious pearls of good personal health. Please remember that God created us to live well in a beautiful natural world that attests to His greatness. May you live long, healthy, free—and eternally!