JC This is a great question. First, it's important to educate ourselves about what's considered "healthy." At the end of the day, we physicians do not go home with you. Your readers should know that they are the most important member in their health care team, and that they should utilize their doctors as informational tools. Second, our bodies usually will tell us if we are living as healthy as we can. If you feel chronically fatigued, or have insomnia, or a "foggy" mind, there are probably steps you can take to improve your overall health by evaluating and maximizing aspects of your lifestyle, nutritional intake, or health status.
SFBG What should someone do if the advice they are getting from their HMO differs from or conflicts with what is prescribed by their holistic health care provider?
JC In this situation, it would be beneficial for the physician to speak with the holistic health care provider. The extent of training among holistic care providers can be vastly different — it can range from those who have taken weekend courses or are self-taught versus those who are board-certified or fellowship-trained. By increasing communication between physicians and holistic practitioners, it provides an additional level of protection for the patient in case the holistic provider is suggesting something medically dangerous. On the other hand, if the treatment plan from the holistic provider is medically appropriate, then it provides an opportunity for the physician to learn more about holistic care and how it can augment conventional care.
SFBG Are there real health benefits to going vegetarian?
JC There are tremendous benefits to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Plant-based diets tend to be much more anti-inflammatory and thus are more beneficial. The trick is to make sure that the diet is high in plant-based proteins, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients, and not processed or fried fatty foods. If the vegetarian or vegan diet is composed of things like steamed vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, it has tremendous health benefits like improving cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity, and decreasing inflammation.
SFBG Are there positive health benefits of living in a big city?
JC San Francisco is one of the healthiest cities in America — access to healthy, organic, and diverse foods allows us to eat well throughout the year. Another tremendous benefit of living in San Francisco is the easy access to hiking, biking, and other forms of outdoor exercise. Even for those who aren't interested in outdoor activities, the simple act of getting around the city allows us to get in regular exercise thanks to the hilly streets.