If you were born around 1980 and came of age in 2000, in other words if you are a millennial, you’re the ideal person I want to see in my clinic. Why?
Because you are in your thirties now – old enough to realise health is a precious asset but young enough to fit the criteria for health interventions targeted at prevention of chronic disease.
Prevention is the area of medicine I’m most passionate about: it’s the clever thing to do. With the medical technology we have at our disposal today, in an age that saw the advent of genetic testing for personalised nutrition and comprehensive lab tests that can tell you everything you need to know about how your body functions at the deepest level (and I’m not talking your conventional lab tests that can only detect serious illness), it would be a real shame if you ignored all this wealth of information and just “hoped for the best”. Hope is good, but taking action is always better.
This area of preventive medicine is very exciting and it’s something that your mum or dad were not able to do in their day and age. Trying to assess someone’s health based on their appearance (skin, hair, nails, posture etc) is not good enough. Someone can be in their twenties and look great and still have cancer ravaging their body. It’s a plausible possibility and you probably know of such cases.
But let’s not talk cancer, let’s talk prevention and achieving optimum health – that physical, emotional and mental state of the body over which no chronic disease (such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer) could ever take hold. This is the area where personalised nutrition and preventive medicine can have the most remarkable results. If you’re in your thirties now, my guess is that you may perhaps experience some nagging symptoms from time to time (low energy, recurrent headaches, pale or unhealthy-looking skin, weight gain, digestive upset, acute infections such as sore throat, cystitis, frequent colds & flu) but you don’t have a labelled disease yet. So please don’t miss this wonderful opportunity for prevention of chronic disease as you will deeply regret it later.
It is a well-known fact that we become sick earlier in life than previous generations did. A recent study published in the journal Surgical Neurology International compared 21 Western countries between 1989 and 2010 and found that dementias are starting a decade earlier than they used to in adults.
The lead supervisor of this research, professor Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University, said: “The rate of increase in such a short time suggests a silent or even a `hidden’ epidemic, in which environmental factors must play a major part, not just ageing. Modern living produces multi-interactional environmental pollution but the changes in human morbidity, including neurological disease is remarkable and points to environmental influences”. He goes on to explain what he means by “environmental influences”: “In the last 20 years [we] have seen increases in the human environment of petro-chemicals — air transport- quadrupling of motor vehicles, insecticides and rises in background electro-magnetic-field, and so on.”
In other words, you don’t become ill due to ageing per se (the “wear and tear” that time inflicts on your body) but rather your illness is a consequence of factors in your environment and lifestyle that are entirely under your control:low-grade toxic exposure from food, water and air, unhealthy food choices, nutritional deficiencies, stress, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, frequent recreational drug use, sleep deprivation, lack of adequate exercise, dependency on antibiotics that destroy your microbiome or on anti-inflammatory medication (Tylenol, Ibuprofen) that impairs liver function etc.
But the good news that you should take away is that, if you’re no older than 39, it’s not too late for you to take control of your health by choosing natural therapies known to improve your nutritional status or decrease your environmental toxic load, optimise the state of your microbiome, your sleep patterns or your exercise & fitness regimen. This of course doesn’t mean that if you’re older than 39, you’re doomed. But the longer you leave it, the shorter that window of opportunity becomes. I had patients who were diagnosed with MS in their twenties. And thanks to following my nutritional advice, they are managing their disease just fine. But that’s exactly what it is: disease management and not radiant health. Once a disease state sets in, it is much more difficult to reverse it.
Thus, if you’re a millennial reading this, here are my top health tips for you to enjoy the best health possible:
- TAKE ADVANTAGE OF GENETIC TESTING and find out what your genes predispose you to. By undergoing genetic testing, you are able to detect if a diet is right for us, if your genes predispose you to certain health issues or nutritional deficiencies, if coffee is protective for you or if it harms your health, if you can get away with a bit more salt in your diet or if you have to restrict it in order to prevent hypertension. In my clinic I offer a genetic test created by the Canadian lab Nutrigenomix and you can read more about it here.
- TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE TESTS and find out if you have already incurred certain nutrient deficiencies or if you have higher than normal levels of such toxic metals as mercury, cadmium, lead, aluminium etc. Find out if your Krebs cycle (the energy-producing mechanism in your cells’ mitochondria) is working well, and if it doesn’t, find out why (lack of nutrient co-factors, toxic metal accumulation, etc). This is only possible through comprehensive lab tests. In my clinic I offer a comprehensive nutritional evaluation called ONE by Genova Diagnostics. This is a urine test that analyses 84 markers that play a key role in cellular metabolism and give a precise indication as to your nutritional status, the health of your microbiome, your state of oxidative stress, etc. If you want to learn more about this test, click here .
- TAKE THE RIGHT ACTION TO IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH: If you’re already struggling with a health issue, don’t try to self-diagnose or self-prescribe, you’ll only be wasting your time. Restoring health is not about applying a certain protocol. If it were as simple as that, you would only need to google a health issue to find your answers. Restoring health is about following a step-by-step strategy that starts at the very root of your problem. This strategy is based on a clinical rationale of why you are ill in the first place: Two people suffering from the same health issue may be ill due to different factors: unhealthy microbiome in one, nutritional deficiencies in another, exposure to plastics and hormonal imbalance in yet another. If you don’t get to the root cause of why you are ill, you may achieve some symptom relief in the short term (and many supplements out there are very good at masking symptoms due to their strong anti-inflammatory action) but you won’t manage to restore radiant health and prevent disease. Find a health professional with strong credentials, who is savvy but affordable (like your favourite brand, Apple!) and let her/him do all the hard investigative work.
- TAKE A MULTI-STRAIN SOIL-BASED PROBIOTIC AND/OR CONSUME CULTURED VEGETABLES DAILY: If you’re a millennial forging out into the world, being ambitious and making your presence felt in society, joining the workforce, buying a house and starting a family, the likelihood is that: you’re under a lot of stress, you don’t have much time to cook for yourself and are relying on frozen meals, you eat out a lot, you drink more alcohol than you should, you sleep less than you’d like to, you go clubbing to decompress once in a while, etc. All these factors damage your microbiome – the healthy, protective bacteria residing in your intestinal tract. They are the first line of defence against any illness. In the words of doctor David Perlmutter, a famous NYC neurologist who treats mental illness by treating the microbiome, “these bacteria decide if we live or die”. It’s that serious!
- AVOID ENERGY DRINKS, FORTIFIED FOODS, NUTRITION BARS, SPORTS DRINKS. These usually contain ingredients that are not good for you: an excessive amount of sugars such as fructose for instance. It is a very bad idea to have your blood sugar fluctuate up and down a lot throughout the day. This may increase your risk of diabetes and it will definitely age you faster due to a process called glycation (the bonding of a protein or lipid molecule with a sugar molecule) that results in the formation of AGEs (advanced glycation end products). AGEs are a factor in ageing and in the development or worsening of many degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic renal failure, and Alzheimer’s disease. Energy-positioned products aim to provide an instant, short term feeling of mental alertness and wellbeing. Millennials are prime targets for energy drinks, shots and bars so don’t be a fool.
Beyond that, it would be just “general health advice”, something else that you need to avoid. We are so similar genetically speaking, yet so different in our SNPs and the way our genes express themselves in interaction with our environment.
For more personalised health advice, I would need to see you in my clinic (or via skype) and take a full medical history including your past & present diet, sleep patterns, stress levels, exercise routine (or lack of it), evaluate low-grade toxic exposures and other factors that put you at risk of chronic disease.
For me, being healthy equals being happy. If you’re unhappy without sufficient reason to be so, the culprit is your internal biochemistry: over time, you became deficient in some key nutrients, or you accumulated more toxic damage. But this can be fixed.
Making healthy dietary and lifestyle choices has a beneficial effect NOW but also years down the track. So you win twice!
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