Watch me on the Katie Couric  show as I discuss Food and Lifestyle Prescriptions for Common Health Problems.
For common health problems, there are often simple diet and lifestyle solutions that get to the root of the problem without the need for medication, which often does little more than mask the symptoms. What we eat, nutritional deficiencies, how we move (or don’t move), and stress levels all impact our well-being.
Here are a few simple strategies you can use to take care of the following common health problems.
Pain and Inflammation
Chronic pain is so common that it affects almost all of us at one time or another. A poor diet, lack of exercise, and chronic repetitive motion (like sitting at a computer screen for eight hours a day) often trigger pain. The most common cause of pain is our inflammatory diet—processed food laden with sugar, trans fat, and refined oil. Hidden or subtle food sensitivities can also cause chronic inflammation. The most common triggers are wheat, gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and kamut), and dairy. Eliminating these foods for two weeks can often dramatically reduce pain and inflammation.
Lack of exercise and stretching and hunching over a computer all day are a big source of back, shoulder, and neck pain. And lastly, lack of sleep (we sleep two hours less each night now than we did 100 years ago) can increase muscle pain and inflammation.
Certain super nutrients, including omega-3 fats found in fish oil and turmeric found in curry, can also help reduce inflammation. In fact, turmeric is often called nature’s ibuprofen.
Here are some simple things you can do to reduce pain and inflammation:
- Eliminate processed and junk food.
- Dramatically reduce or eliminate sugar.
- Do a two-week trial of an elimination diet, getting rid of all gluten and dairy.
- Try turmeric, taken as one 500mg capsule twice a day.
- Take 2–3 grams a day of EPA/DHA (fish oil).
- Exercise—walking 30 minutes a day is a good start.
- Sleep eight hours a night.
- Try stretching exercises, including back and shoulder pain-relieving yoga exercises:
- Cobra or Back Extensions—hold for two minutes
- Bridge Pose—hold for one minute
- Pelvic Tilts—do 30 tilts
- Knee To Chest—hold each knee for 30 seconds and both together for 30 seconds
- Knee-Drop Side Twist—hold for 15–30 seconds
- Hip Flexor Lunge—hold for 30 seconds on each side
- Half-Pigeon Pose on Back—hold each side for 30 seconds
- Cat and Dog Stretch—do 30 times
- Yoga Mudra Shoulder Stretch—hold for one minute
A number of things can trigger memory loss. I call them the “four S’s:” sugar, stress, (lack of) sleep, and (lack of) sweating. Sugar causes pre-diabetes and diabetes, which often lead to significant memory loss. In fact, Alzheimer’s is now being called type 3 diabetes. So, get rid of sugar and flour products. Stress shrinks the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. So, find your pause button every day and make time for some stress relief. Lack of sleep can cause impaired brain function, leading to CRAFT syndrome, which stands for “can’t remember a _____ thing.” Exercising to the point of breaking a sweat is a great brain optimizer because it releases BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a Miracle-Gro for the brain that stimulates the growth of new brain cells and new brain cell connections. All it takes is 30 minutes of brisk walking each day.
A few supplements have also been shown to help improve memory and brain function:
- Fish oil or EPA/DHA (omega-3 fats) for brain cell structure and functioning. Take 2–4 grams a day. 99% of Americans are deficient in omega-3 fats, yet DHA makes up 60% of the brain.
- Special forms of B12 and folate—1 mg of methylcobalamin and 1–2 mg of 5-methylfolate a day.
- Coconut butter (MCT or medium chain triglycerides) for brain fuel—1 tbsp a day of extra virgin coconut oil.
Visit the Healthy Living Store  for great, quality supplements that have been vetted by me.
You should have a bowel movement at least once a day. Chronic constipation can lead to colon cancer and even Parkinson’s disease. Constipation can be caused by low thyroid function, dehydration, magnesium deficiency, intestinal infections, and more. But for many people, this simple home remedy can fix the problem forever:
- Take 2 tbsp daily of ground flax seeds (which contain fiber, lignin, and omega-3 fats).
- Take 150–300mg of magnesium citrate twice daily in capsule form. You can take more if you need to go to the bathroom. If you get loose stools, cut back. If you have kidney problems, consult your doctor before using higher dose magnesium.
- Take daily probiotics—50 billion CFUs of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.
- Drink eight glasses of water daily.
- If you don’t feel better after trying this remedy, get your thyroid checked.
Most of us think that high cholesterol comes from eating cholesterol or fat. Nothing is further from the truth. Sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup, turns your liver into a cholesterol factory, manufacturing triglycerides from the sugar, which is then transformed into dangerous small cholesterol particles. Anything that turns to sugar is a problem—sugar, white flour, white rice, etc. All of this “white stuff,” including trans fats (shortening is pretty white), in your diet turns to “yellow stuff” in your arteries. Cut down or stop eating those things.
Here are a few simple things you can do to optimize your cholesterol:
- To increase cholesterol-lowering fiber in your diet, try PGX, a super-fiber made from Japanese konjac root. You can have it as shirataki noodles, as a powder or as a capsule. If you use the powder, take 2.5–5 grams in a glass of water 15 minutes before a meal.
- Red rice yeast lowers cholesterol. Take 1,200mg twice a day.
- Fish oil, 2–6 grams a day, lowers triglycerides and cholesterol.
- Get some exercise. Interval training (like wind sprints) fixes insulin resistance, the main cause of abnormal cholesterol (small dense particles).
Puffy Eyes and Fluid Retention
Nobody loves puffy eyes. They can be caused by environmental and food allergies or sensitivities (especially gluten and dairy) and low thyroid function. You should get those things checked, but here are some yummy foods than can reduce fluid retention and puffy eyes:
- Green tea (a diuretic and antioxidant)
- Dandelion greens (a diuretic)
- Asparagus (a diuretic)
- Green juices with asparagus, celery, dandelion greens, and cucumber
Dry Skin and Bumps on the Back of the Arms (Chicken Skin)
Many people suffer from dry skin or even chicken skin bumps on the back their arms. These may be signs of an omega-3 deficiency, a vitamin A or zinc deficiency, low thyroid function, or sensitivities to foods like gluten and dairy. Your doctor can test you for all of these. See my free guide called How to Work with Your Doctor to Get What You Need  for information on how to test for these problems. Here are some home remedies to try:
- Eat three servings a week of sardines or wild salmon (omega-3s).
- Take 2–4 grams a day of fish oil or omega-3 supplements.
- Try rubbing flax and borage oil on dry skin.
- Take a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement that includes vitamin A and zinc.
Join me in helping us all take back our health by leaving a comment below and by following me on Twitter @markhymanmd and on Facebook at facebook.com/drmarkhyman .