Category Archives: Health

The Word of Wisdom

by Dr. Stan Brewer
An essential part of healthy living is diet.  The benefits of healthy eating have been established over and over.  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we have been blessed with the Word of Wisdom revealed to Joseph Smith in 1833 as a guide to a healthy diet.  The benefits of not smoking or drinking alcohol have been thoroughly established through extensive scientific research.  However, there is more to the Word of Wisdom that are also being validated by current research and recommendations.
One of the first recommendations is to eat “every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof” (Doctrine and Covenant 89:11).  The new US Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid places added emphasis on eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that eating the right amounts of fruits and vegetables can deacrease the risk of cancer and other chronic illness.  It is also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help fight disease.  If you want to see how much you should be eating each day try this tool here.  For example I should be eating 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables.
Another recommendation regards grains – “All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life” (Doctrine and Covenant 89:16). Grains are a staple that provide carbohydrates, one of our main sources of energy.  Currently the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and USDA recommend increasing our whole grains consumption (to at least half of the grains we eat).  Whole grains include brown or wild rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, triticale, cracked wheat, and popcorn in addition to whole-grain wheat, barley, corn, rye, and oats.  Whole grains provide “good carbs” which are more complex and nutricious sources of carbohydrates.  They also have fiber and other essential nutrients.
Finally, the Word of Wisdom encourages us to eat meat “sparingly”.  Studies have shown too much meat (especially red meats or meats with lots of fat) can be detrimental to our health.  Diets with lots of red and fatty meats have been associated with various cancers, high cholesterol, and obestiy.  However, there are also important nutrients in animal products.  Eating meat sparingly will provide these nutrients without the detrimental effects of excess meat.  Diets that use meat sparingly and focus on white meat or fish (such as the Mediterranean diet) have repeatedly been shown to have significant health benefit.  One food pyramid that I really like from the Universty of Michigan suggests eating meat only a few times a week, click here to visit the site, as well as eating losts of fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
In summary, the scientific research in nutrition validates the diet encouraged in the Word of Wisdom – eat lots of fruits and vegetables, eat whole grains, and minimize our meat consumption.  It is also important to remember to drink plenty of water, eat healthy fats, and get regular exercise.  Doing these things will help us to reap the health benefits outlined in the Word of Wisdom and established by modern science.

Established Care

by Dr. Stan Brewer

An important part of maintaining health is having an established health care provider.  Often this is called a primary care provider.  I am sure we all know the value of having an establishing provider is you ever get sick.  But there are several additional advantages to having a primary care provider.

  • Your provider knows you, your situation, and your medical history
  • It decreases costs for you and the community

o       Without established care, problems can become much worse before they are taken care of or can result in emergency room visits, which are very expensive.

  • An established provider can manage chronic conditions and find serious diseases earlier
  • Your provider coordinates care with specialists when you need it
  • You can enjoy easier access to the doctor when you are sick

o       Most doctors keep same day appointments open for urgent medical needs

  • By seeing a physician who knows you, your care is more culturally sensitive
  • People with established care tend to be healthier

However, many of us do not have insurance and this can make it very difficult to find a primary care provider.  There are several affordable primary care clinics in the Portland area, offering medical care at little to no cost (The following link is a map of medical clinics serving low-income people without health insurance in the Portland metro area:  Google map medical clinics serving low income people without health insurance.   Most of these clinics are accessible with public transportation.  For more excellent information on local clinics visit:  Coalition of Community Health Clinics (for those outside of the Portland area,  type in your search engine community health clinics with the name of your state/city).  This website includes a wonderful feature that allows you to find the clinic that best meets your needs.  You can also call 211 for more information about resources in the community.

Once you find a clinic that you would like to establish care at, be aware that it is not always as easy as calling and setting up an appointment.  Many people can become frustrated trying to get into a local low cost clinic.  The process is different at every clinic, but there are some things you can expect and get ready before hand.

1.      As a first time patient, you can probably expect to wait 2-3 weeks in most clinics for a first appointment.  If you have an acute problem that needs more immediate attention, call and make an appointment anyway.  At that appointment, your new primary care provider can ensure your acute illness has been appropriately resolved, and once you have established care, you will likely be able to visit this new provider in the future for acute illnesses.

2.      It is important to be persistent when trying to make appointments.  Clinics vary as to when openings for new patients become available.  If a clinic tells you that they are not accepting new patients, they may be accepting new patients as soon as the morning of the next day.  Ask the receptionist when new openings will be available, and call frequently.

3.      As many of these clinics are low cost, no cost, or sliding scale, you will likely need to provide proof of income.  Helpful documents include:

a.       Current pay stubs

b.      Most recent W2 tax documents

c.       Social Security Benefits documentation

d.      Signed letters documenting financial situation (not from family members)

4.      You may need to set up a “Financial Eligibility” appointment

5.      Most clinics operate during normal weekday business hours (i.e. 8-5), with some variability.  Some clinics will only take new patients on certain days of the week or only have a certain number of open slots available for new patients.  Call and verify with the specific clinic you are interested in.

6.      Some clinics require a cash deposit for uninsured patients to cover medical costs.  These are discounted fees.

7.      Not all clinics will take insured patients.  Please check with your clinic of interest if you do have some form of health insurance.

Establishing care at a clinic can take a little time and effort, but it will be well worth it.  With a regular provider you can make sure that any health care need you have are taken care of.  Even if you aren’t sick; it can be worthwhile to set up an established care at a clinic by scheduling a regular check up.

A special thank you to my classmates who compiled most of this information.

Coping with Stress

by Dr. Stan Brewer

All of us know what stress is and feels like. Stress is a natural response that helps us deal with difficult situations. In that sense it can be very helpful. Research has shown that a little bit of stress can help test takers and athletes perform better and help us respond to emergency situations. However, too much stress does just the opposite. Furthermore, too much stress can lead to psychological disorders and if severe and prolonged, physical problems. Heart disease, high blood pressure,and greater susceptability to illness have all been linked to stress.

Stress comes in many forms. Disasters and life changing events can obviously be stressful. But so can the day to day things we face at home and at work. However, stress doesn’t just have to be negative. There can be positive stress too. Celebrations, promotions, new jobs and many other things can add positive stress. How we respond to stress has a lot to do with whether it motivates us and helps us perform better or panics us and just makes things worse. In a gospel sense, how we respond to adversity correlates with how much we grow from it. Those that murmur, complain, or run away (Laman and Lemuel or Jonah) do not receive the blessings of those who pray earnestly for help and guidance and then get to work (the brother of Jared).

A major factor in determining how we will respond to stress is whether we are optimistic or pessimistic. Optimism has been shown to help people do better in school and recover quicker from surgery. I think the gospel principles of Faith and Hope help us to have more optimism. With faith we can trust that Heavenly Father will help us to do our best with our stressful tasks or help us cope with the stressful events. We can hope that we will grow and gain valuable experience from our trials. Together these can bring more optimism into our lives – we can see stressful situations as an opportunity to grow and develop!

It is also important to have good methods to cope with stress. Intense and long lasting stress is not healthy. There are several methods to help manage stress. Take care of yourself: Eating properly and getting the right amount of sleep are very important Staying active: Exercise is an excellent stress reducer. Take some time out: Taking some time away from stressors is important. Vacations, breaks, and changes of pace help. Utilize Sundays as a day to rest from the stresses of work, school, and daily life and to refresh yourself spiritually. Get involved: Helping someone else is a great way to relieve stress. Getting involved in your community can also help build a support network. Stay in touch: Having friends and family who are caring and positive can be very beneficial. Taking some time to do something you enjoy with friends or family is a great stress reliever. Avoid temporary fixes: Drugs and alcohol (or other addictions) may seem to provide temporary relief but they are really causing more damage. Excessive complaining (murmuring) can also be detrimental. Seek help if you need it: There are situations and times that are beyond our abilities to cope. Family, friends, and church leaders can offer the help we need. Professional help from counselors and doctors is also available. Rely on the Lord: Heavenly Father loves you and wants to see you succeed and find happiness. By putting our trust in the Lord He is able to bless us in ways we would not think possible. When no one else can understand what we are going through, He can. He knows us and He has suffered all things. He is in the perfect position to help.

Photo source: public domain

Healthy Resolution

by Dr. Stan Brewer

I am sure many of you, like me, made a resolution to be healthier this year.  As February rolls around, I think it is a good time to reevaluate our resolutions and recommit to them.  My resolutions this year include eating healthier and exercising more (and hopefully loosing a few pounds along the way). A lot of research has shown that a healthy body mass index (a measurement that uses both your weight and your height) is one of the best means of preventing serious illness such as heart disease, diabetes, and countless others diseases.  The same is true for eating healthy and for exercising.  With all the diets and exercise programs out there, it is hard to decide which one is right for you and even which are healthy.  However, most of the research shows that being healthy is pretty simple.  The new food pyramid is an excellent guide to what healthy eating looks like (whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, fat free dairy, and a small amount of healthy fats).

As for exercising, even a little walking can have great benefit.  Just 30 minutes of walking a day has significant health benefits and an hour or more has been shown to help with weight loss. So, what is the best way to start eating healthy and exercising more?  The most important part is motivation; you can only do as much as you are motivated to do.  Start with something you know you can accomplish. Try to eat at least one more serving of vegetables each day.  Start walking 15 minutes a day or a few days a week.  Remember, it will take a while to develop new habits and sometimes it will require some adjustment to your goals. The important thing is that as long as you are making progress your body will thank you for it.  February is a great time to recommit to our resolutions, or to make some new ones.

Photo source: US Navy/Public domain

Several Ways to Dispose of Medications

by Dr. Stan Brewer

Many of us have probably had a small stash of outdated or no longer needed medications in our house.  Perhaps some pain pills we didn’t need or outdated over-the-counter medications.  When it comes to getting rid of our prescription drugs there are several dilemmas.  If we just throw the bottle away there is a chance that someone will recognize the classic bottle and use it or sell it.  There is also the chance that an animal will eat it.  Many cities used to recommend flushing drugs down the toilet, but not surprisingly, the EPA has recently found that some drugs in the water can be harmful (some medications are still considered safe to flush down the toilet, just check the label).  With so many problems throwing drugs away, many of us just hang on to them, tucked away in the back of the medicine cabinet.  But there are also risks with keeping medications at home and there are a few safe ways to dispose of medications. The FDA came out with some guidelines to help people know what to do with old medications: click here You can remove the medications from the bottle, mixing them with something undesirable (like kitty litter), then put the mixed medication in a sealed container (an empty tub or seal-able bag). This can then be disposed of in the regular garbage. Perhaps the best option is a drug disposal program.  Some pharmacies have programs.   Metro does take medications with the household hazardous waste program.  Pills can be placed in a ziploc bag and brought to the hazardous waste collection site at 6161 NW 61st Ave (open 9-4).

Photo source: public domain

What You Need to Know About Herbal and Botanical Remedies

Dr. Stan Brewer

Among the many options we have to take care of our health are herbal and botanical remedies. In many cases science has proven that these natural remedies work well to treat various ailments and diseases.  However, I have often heard people say, “it is natural and therefore it is safe.”

While many natural remedies are indeed safer than some human-engineered drugs, natural treatments are not always free from side effects.  Many herbs can have the same effects, for good or ill, as drugs.  Some herbs can interact with regular prescription and over-the-counter drugs in harmful and even deadly ways. Also, taken in excess natural remedies can damage our bodies just like overdosing on drugs.  In fact, many vitamins and minerals can be toxic in too large of quantities.  It is therefore important to talk with your health care provider about any herbs or other remedies you are using for you health, especially if you are on long-term medications or have a chronic illness.  Your health care provider can make sure that the herbs and drugs do not interact or can adjust your doses accordingly.

Additionally, natural remedies sold as dietary supplements are not regulated the same way as drugs.  While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) helps to maintain the safety of dietary supplements, the effectiveness or side effects are not tested.  Sometimes the FDA finds that what is in the products is not what is on the labels.  While it is rare, the FDA has found some supplements that contain toxins such as pesticides, different active ingredients, or even prescription drugs in the supplements.  It is therefore important to be sure that you are obtaining natural products from reputable sources.

There are many benefits to taking natural supplements with or instead of traditional drugs. For the most part they are safe and many have been proven effective.  However, it is also important to remember that even though they are natural they can still have side effects, just like traditional drugs, and should be taken with caution.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine  has a lot of great resources on using natural remedies wisely.

Photo source: public domain