AHHA SELF-HELP ARTICLES COLLECTION
   


Alan R. Gaby, M.D. received his B.A. from Yale University, his M.S. in biochemistry from Emory University, and his M.D. from the University of Maryland. He is past-president of the American Holistic Medical Association, and has been contributing medical editor for the Townsend Letter for Doctors since 19894. From 1995 to 2002 he was a Professor of Nutrition at Bastyr University. He has recently completed a 30-year project, a textbook of Nutritional Medicine. For more information, please visit (www.doctorgaby.com).


The American Holistic Health Association has compiled a collection of self-help articles to support your efforts to enhance your own health and well-being.

This article is part of the
article category
ENHANCING YOUR LEVEL OF WELLNESS
and the sub-category
NUTRITION AND SUPPLEMENTATION

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Many common conditions for which people see a doctor can be treated successfully by dietary modifications, nutritional supplements, and herbal remedies. I frequently see patients who have been to dozens of doctors and received countless medications, with little to show for it except bills and side effects. However, after following a nutritional program, they report feeling better than they can ever remember.

Symptoms which often respond to a nutritional approach include fatigue, low-level depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, premenstrual syndrome, joint pains, muscle aches, recurrent infections, nasal congestion, and others.

The important first step is to eliminate refined sugar, caffeine, and alcohol from the diet. For some people, this change is difficult, as each of these foods can be quite addictive. However, if you commit yourself to "toughing it out" through the first three to five days of withdrawal symptoms, you might find yourself entering a level of well-being you had not thought possible.

For many individuals with chronic symptoms, elimination of sugar, caffeine and alcohol is all that is necessary to feel well. Others, however, have allergies to specific foods. Food allergy is a common, though usually unrecognized, cause of migraines, fluid retention, nasal congestion, arthritis, fatigue, spastic colon, asthma, and other symptoms. To diagnose food allergies, I usually recommend an elimination diet: strict avoidance of all foods containing refined sugar, wheat, dairy products, corn, eggs, citrus fruits, coffee, tea, alcohol, and food additives. If, after 10 to 21 days, certain symptoms have disappeared or greatly improved, each eliminated food is tested individually. Those foods which provoke symptoms must be avoided completely for at least 3 to 6 months; those foods that do not cause symptoms are returned to the diet.

With attention to these dietary recommendations, nearly half of all symptoms seen by a typical family doctor can be relieved. To supplement the diet approach, vitamins, minerals, plant extracts, and other natural substances can be used as alternatives to prescription drugs. Although nutrient biochemistry can be quite complicated, below are a few examples of simple, safe, and effective natural treatments:

  • Urinary difficulties caused by an enlarged prostate gland usually improve with supplements of essential fatty acids, zinc, and an extract of berries from the palm dwarf (saw palmetto) tree.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, a disorder caused by compression of a nerve at the wrist, often responds to 50-100 mg. per day of vitamin B6.
  • High blood pressure may come down in individuals who take supplements of calcium, magnesium, and hawthorne berries.
  • Individuals with asthma may find themselves having fewer attacks and requiring less medication when they take vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5).
  • Individuals with hypoglycemia may find that their blood sugar does not fall as easily if they take chromium tablets.
There are many other examples of how non-toxic natural substances can be used as an adjunct to or substitute for prescription medications and surgery. In ten years of medical practice, I have not seen a single serious side effect from any of these treatments. At the same time, there have been many satisfied patients who had previously failed conventional treatment.

Although the treatments described above are generally quite safe, it is not impossible to overdose on a vitamin, mineral, or herb. In addition, there may be interactions with some prescription medications. Furthermore, certain medical conditions require special precautions. For these reasons, you should not attempt a nutritional program by yourself. Seek the guidance of a competent practitioner who can teach you how to undertake a nutritional program safely and effectively.