Tieraona Low Dog, MD, the chief medical officer of destination spa group Well & Being, advocates an integrative approach to optimal health.
HEALTH & WELLNESS What are some common misconceptions about herbal medicine?
DR. TIERAONA LOW DOG People forget that most of the very profound medicines we use today came from plants. Every time you take a pain medication, you should be thanking those of our ancestors who figured out that opium could relieve pain. Reserpine, the first modern medication for high blood pressure, was derived from an Indian shrub. The thing to remember is there are sometimes alternatives to pharmaceuticals, but we want to be careful to not overstate herbal medicine.
H&W How is cardiovascular disease related to lifestyle choices?
TLD Twenty years ago we thought cholesterol or lipids was driving it. While lipids do matter, we know now that the major driver of heart disease is probably uncontrolled inflammation in the body. High-glycemic-load carbohydrates such as processed rice, bread, doughnuts, cookies, chips, and pasta are probably far worse for your heart than having steak or a bit of butter on your whole-grain bread.
H&W Are there alternatives to taking statins?
TLD We now think statins may work because they reduce inflammation in the body. But as an alternative, for people who do not have a serious risk of heart disease, I would recommend a low-glycemic-load Mediterranean-style diet that kicks out refined carbs. Also, keep fish in your diet two to three times a week. If you are not eating fish, I would recommend fish oil supplements, but I do think eating fish is better. To reduce inflammation, I would suggest turmeric and an aspirin a day depending on your age and gender.
H&W Can acupuncture and meditation lower blood pressure?
TLD Yes, and massage does, too. There was a study a while back at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles that showed cortisol levels went down in individuals (cortisol is a hormone of stress) after just one massage. In one hour they could physically measure, using laboratory tools, that stress had gone down. Long-term studies have shown that people who regularly get massages have better moods and less depression.
H&W How does your work at Well & Being help people achieve peak health?
TLD We are bringing smarter ways of being well to luxury resorts. This spring we will open our largest center in partnership with the Four Seasons Resort and Club, Dallas at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas. Clients get a great workout facility and can have massages, facials, and all those services, but we also offer acupuncture, meditation, life coaching, and physical training with a broader range than just exercise. These interventions and self-care practices are evidence-based and empowering
H&W What herbal remedy can ease anxiety?
TLD Chamomile is widely consumed for upset stomach, but the University of Pennsylvania has been researching the herb’s effects on generalized anxiety disorder. A double-blind clinical trial found chamomile extract to be highly effective in treating depression.