What is Lifestyle Medicine?Jan 04, 2023 12:17PM ● By Dr. Erin Mayfield
Lifestyle Medicine is a newly organized medical specialty that successfully treats the root cause of chronic diseases using the Six Pillars of Health. The science is grounded in decades of evidenced-based research and clinical application. It’s very exciting work that is saving lives—and it’s fun!
The Six Pillars of Health are for everyone. They include whole plant-centered eating, physical activity, healthy sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances, and loving relationships. People can lose weight naturally; decrease medication dependence; and prevent, arrest and potentially reverse chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease—without using prescription medications or surgery. It may sound impossible, but it’s true.
The number of people suffering with chronic diseases in our country is staggering, and the numbers continue to climb. At least 80 percent of chronic diseases are related to lifestyle choices—the food we eat, lack of exercise, stress, and lack of sleep. The standard American diet—full of processed foods, meat, dairy, sugar, fat and salt—is literally killing us. Even 40 percent of adult cancers are related to diet and exercise.
That is a tremendous amount of pain, suffering and early deaths in our friends and loved ones. And it is unnecessary and preventable.
Lifestyle Medicine physicians prescribe lifestyle interventions and use modern coaching methods to facilitate behavior change. When participants embrace the program, the potential exists to drop blood sugars in one week and cholesterol 30 points in a month. Vital signs and blood work are closely monitored to adjust medication dosages as needed. Using food and exercise as medicine is a very powerful way to rapidly improve health.
One critical component of treatment success utilizes the principles of Culinary Medicine. Culinary Medicine combines up-to-date nutrition science with food preparation skills to create meals where every ingredient is nourishing to our bodies. It also includes skills such as food shopping, storage and recipe creation. It expands the “food is medicine” initiative.
Eating whole plant foods is high octane fuel for our bodies. Eating predominantly plants promotes the growth of a healthy microbiome (gut bacteria) and provides essential nutrients including generous amounts of complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Plant foods do not contain cholesterol. The fiber in plant foods can help decrease blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Plants have high nutrient density and are generally low in calories and fat. Our bodies crave fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains like brown rice.
Moderate physical activity has been shown to dramatically decrease cardiovascular risk. That is defined as 30 minutes of walking, five days per week, for a total of 150 minutes. Movement has been correlated with a decreased risk of many cancers—including breast cancer. It is a central component of optimum health and resilience.
Restorative, consistent sleep is another essential component of great health that optimizes daily functioning. Sleep helps balance our hunger hormones, improves insulin resistance, mental health, and resilience. During sleep, metabolic toxic byproducts are removed from the brain.
In addition, learning to manage stress, avoiding the consumption of substances that are risky to one’s health, and cultivating nurturing relationships with others round out the Six Pillars of Health. These remaining pillars will be covered in next month’s Lifestyle Medicine article.
Our daily habits have a tremendous influence on our longevity and affect our DNA expression. We have been programmed to believe that chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes are inherited—that our risk is increased if it “runs in the family.” However, we are not prisoners to our genetics. We do have control over our destiny.
Lifestyle Medicine is the medical specialty that provides the missing link between traditional medicine and true restoration of health.
Erin Mayfield, DO, DipABLM, DipAOBOG, Harvard certified Chef Coach, is the new Medical Advisor for the Northwest Florida edition of Natural Awakenings magazine. She created her private lifestyle medicine practice at the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, delivering programs through a telemedicine platform so people can access services in the privacy of their homes. The coaching program includes live sessions and cooking classes. New offerings in 2023 include on-site culinary medicine workshops and classes being held at Ever'man Cooperative Grocery and Cafe in Pensacola, FL, in addition to corporate wellness packages. For more information, see news brief on back cover and visit LifestyleMedicineWellnessandRecovery.com.
Be on the lookout for Dr. Mayfield’s article featuring the other three of the Six Pillars of Health in the February issue.