As it is the New Year many so-called wellness experts are dispensing supposedly transformational health advice. Articles about New Year’s detoxes (and all the required accoutrements, conveniently for sale) and diets are aplenty.
After much much reflection I have decided that I am one of the most equipped to give said advice as I am a doctor who has been studying wellness for some time. I’ve also attended a conference (nothing was designed to improve your life experience, although coming back from death was a big focus) and, given my proclivity for debunking dubious health advice, spent more time than I care to admit fact-checking a variety of wellness sites.
The first step is to define wellness. According to the World Health Organization, “Wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Basically what makes you healthy and happy in your mind and body.
So without further ado, here are Dr. Jen Gunter’s wellness tips for 2019
• If losing weight is something on your list, find a plan that you can actually follow. It’s not about the lectins or the carbohydrates or the fat, it’s about what works that you can actually do consistently and keep doing. For years. Like, forever. For me what works is journaling (writing down everything that I eat).
• Eat 25 grams of fiber a day. If every single person did this, each one of us would be a lot healthier and happier. Fiber has a lot of health benefits, including the fact that it reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and is a prebiotic, thus supports the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. And it prevents constipation. I would not be wrong when I say that constipation is a wellness suck.
• Make sure your vaccinations are up to date. You can check the recommendations at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new guidelines have extended the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine recommendations up to the age of 45. If preventing cancer is on your list of resolutions, well, there are two vaccines for that: the HPV vaccine and the hepatitis B vaccine.
• Make exercise a priority. Everyone wants a miracle in medicine, even doctor. I’d love to be able to wave a magic wand or prescribe a frothy tonic and make diseases disappear. There is one miracle therapy that is here and it can even be free: exercise. Being physically active for even five hours a week can have dramatic health benefits.
The guidelines for exercise are at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both. If you can’t do that amount do some. Exercise is like free money, some is always better than none.
• Put down your phone and engage in real fellowship. People who age well — what researchers call SuperAgers — tend to have more positive social relationships compared with people who are not aging as well. Social interaction may even affect your risk of developing certain illnesses.
• If advice for health and happiness comes from a site or person selling a product, close the browser. You can’t get unbiased advice from someone who is invested in selling you something.
• Skip the detoxes. That is why we have liver and kidneys. Anyone who tells you that toxins are accumulating and can be removed (usually for a price) is woefully misinformed.
• Ditch your multivitamins and supplements for general health. Studies tell is that people who take supplements may actually increase their risk of certain diseases and even cancer and no one is getting any net benefit.
• Avoid homeopathy and those who prescribe it. First of all, it’s magic water. I mean come on. Also, doctors who prescribe homeopathy side by side with accepted medical care tend to be less likely to follow accepted guidelines for the medical standards of care.
Here’s to a healthy and a happy New Year.
Dr. Jen Gunter is a Marin resident and an ob/gyn in San Francisco.