By Dr. Mercola
Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be sick than healthy these days. Nearly 70 percent of adults in the U.S. take at least one prescription drug for a chronic or other medical condition, with antibiotics, antidepressants and narcotic painkillers topping the list.
One in 5 deaths in the U.S. is linked to obesity, and diabetes has increased over 300 percent in just 15 years.1 All told, nearly one-third of Americans have either prediabetes or some form of diabetes,2 which predisposes them to a whole host of other serious health conditions and chronic diseases.
More than half a million Americans also die from Alzheimer’s disease each year, making it the third leading cause of death in the U.S., right behind heart disease and cancer. Importantly, ALL of these conditions have been scientifically linked to poor lifestyle choices and alterations in the modern diet. So is there a way out of this proverbial mouse trap? I believe there is.
Your Body Is Designed for Effortless Healing
In the video above, originally aired on public television (PBS) last year, I highlight some of the foundational basics of effortless healing, which is also the name of my New York Times best selling book, published in 2015.
“Effortless Healing” distills what I’ve learned and shared on this website over the past two decades down to nine simple principles that will help you optimize your weight and health — all by making small, gradual shifts in what you eat and how you live.
The video will only be available for viewing for the next seven days, so I recommend setting aside the time to watch it if you haven’t already done so. It’s also an excellent primer to share with your friends and family who may still be unfamiliar with nutritional healing.
In short, I’ve come to realize that good health is not as elusive as you might think, and strategies that are both simple and inexpensive (or free) can significantly improve your health status.
Contrary to the impression you get when listening to the drug advertisements on TV, your body is by nature designed to heal and repair itself and to actively prevent the onset of disease through built-in feedback systems. But in order for your body to function properly, it needs to be supported and nourished.
The simple truth is that most disease is rooted in poor nutrition and lack of physical movement. Drugs neither support nor nourish your body’s innate healing capabilities. Food and proper rest and movement, on the other hand, do.
Diet and Lifestyle Can Make or Break Your Health
Diets high in sugars, excessive amounts of low-quality protein and insufficient amounts of healthy fat, coupled with inactivity, promote a cascade of metabolic effects that lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, and THAT appears to be at the heart of most ailments.
Unfortunately, most physicians are taught very little about the use of food for healing in medical school, and many never take the time to learn even the most basic nutritional principles.
As a result, few conventional doctors have the prerequisite knowledge to guide you in nutritional healing. Many are outright suspicious about claims that foods can heal. Such suspicions are not based in reality of fact, however.
The medical literature is rife with evidence showing how food and physical activity influences health and longevity. There’s even a solid foundation of evidence showing your mind and outlook influence your health, for better or worse.
It’s easy to forget that our diet and lifestyles have changed dramatically over the last 100 years. Many have no recollection of or insight into how life was like back then and what people actually ate, and this is part of the problem.
It’s easy to think today’s health epidemics are due to some mysterious process, the root of which is largely unknown. This is simply untrue.
You could say the answer lies in the past, because in order to heal “effortlessly” and/or avoid illness altogether, you must acknowledge the fact that eating REAL FOOD (i.e. food that is as close to its natural identity or as unadulterated as possible) is a foundational necessity for health and disease prevention.
Is Your Diet Making You Sick?
One of the reasons why so many diseases are skyrocketing in prevalence is because we don’t eat enough real food. Most Americans eat a predominantly processed food diet, which virtually guarantees you’ll suffer health problems at some point.
Two of the primary culprits are sugar and trans fat. This includes all kinds of sugar but in particular refined sugar and processed fructose (HFCS) followed closely by refined grains, as these ingredients cause your insulin level to spike.
Insulin allows your cells to use sugar, but when you eat too much sugar your cells eventually become resistant to the insulin. You’re insulin resistant if your fasting insulin level is over 3 or 4, and insulin resistance can in turn lead to diabetes and a long list of related health problems and diseases.
When you’re insulin resistant, your body will also store rather than burn fat. As a result, it becomes exceedingly difficult for your body to use stored body fat for energy; hence, weight gain is typically associated with insulin resistance.
The good news is you can turn insulin resistance around fairly quickly and easily by eating real food and swapping out net carbs (total carbohydrates minus fiber) for healthy fats.
By driving down the sugar content of your diet and increasing the healthy fats, your body can begin to shift from burning sugar as its primary fuel to burning fat instead, and this has several health benefits.
Not only will it help you shed body fat, it also helps optimize your mitochondrial function and drives down inflammation, allowing your body to heal and regenerate.
Lack of Movement and Insufficient Sun Exposure Take Their Toll
Your body was also designed for more or less continuous movement. The habit of sitting for most of the day is an entirely new convention that was not part of life 100 years ago.
Indeed, studies show exercise can be as effective a treatment as many drugs, including antidepressants and medications for prediabetes and heart disease. These diseases were quite rare in the past, and the reason for that is because they are primarily lifestyle-induced conditions.
More than 10,000 studies now show that prolonged sitting takes a devastating toll on your health.
It actively and independently promotes dozens of chronic diseases, including weight gain and type 2 diabetes, even if you exercise several times a week and are very fit. The sad truth is, you cannot offset eight to 10 hours of stillness with 30 to 60 minutes of exercise, even if you exercise every single day.
Other healthy lifestyle components include getting sensible sun exposure and grounding to the Earth. These are lifestyle habits with potent health-promoting potential that cost little to nothing. The same can surely not be said for drugs and conventional medical treatments, so it seems foolish to forgo them.
Wellness Tips to Live By
Making a commitment to live healthier is an ongoing process. It’s virtually impossible to make all the needed changes in one fell swoop. The trick is to have a broad understanding of what “living healthy” entails, and then implement the necessary changes one-by-one. Two months ago, I published a Mid-Year Health Check article discussing some of these basic parameters. If you didn’t do it then, I encourage you to print out your Healthy Check List now and make a commitment to begin.
Once you get around to cleaning up your diet, read through my recently updated Nutrition Plan. It is set up to guide you in a step-by-step fashion, allowing you to incrementally improve your diet in such a way as to make it a lasting part of your lifestyle, as the guidelines I propose are not fads. They’re science-based recommendations that will help normalize your insulin and leptin sensitivity and optimize your mitochondrial function, which in turn will give you a better chance at living a long and healthy life.
Last but not least, Cronometer.com/Mercola, which is by far the best nutrient tracker on the market, is a phenomenally helpful tool if you’re serious about implementing a diet high in healthy fats and low in net carbs, as my version is specifically designed to help you achieve nutritional ketosis.