Doc Rioux At Large

A few pointers for your good health

Richard "Doc" Rioux · November 17, 1996

The Clintons spend the first two years of their first term trying to impose a national health care system on the American people. During the heated partisan debate that ensued, very little time was spent discussing the need for disease prevention, methods for keeping people out of hospitals and the value of promoting a national health care system centered on keeping Americans fit and trim.

I've studies nutrition for 15 years and have run 26 marathons since 1988. I regret not being able to run the second Santa Clarita Marathon because of a twisted knee, but there is always next year. What follows is some of what I've learned about staying healthy and fit. It is not intended as medical advice. Please check with your doctor before starting any new program. I'll be 53 this month.

KEEPING WEIGHT DOWN: We know overweight people are far more prone than those who are not to develop heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Our first order of the day should be, therefore, to do what is necessary to keep off too much weight and to stay fit in the process.

You can lose a pound a week by reducing the fat in your diet, eating smaller portions at your meals, drinking lots of water, and skipping a couple of meals here and there. You can keep weight off by walking two miles a day, five or six days a week, or by doing something else that's aerobic like riding a bicycle or going to the gym three days a week. The idea is to adopt weight control and fitness as a permanent lifestyle change and not just something you have to do for six months or so to drop 30 pounds.

USE OF VITAMINS: In my opinion vitamin and mineral supplements can be very useful, but overuse and abuse can be troublesome. We need to remember that everyone's body is different and that some experimentation is usually in order. At the very least, however, I find it useful to take half of a multivitamin-mineral tablet daily and combine it with additional Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D. Calcium combats insomnia, allergies, stomach acidity, headaches and high blood pressure, while Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium, fights colds and can be a mood elevator as well. I've seen Vitamin D help people suffering from depression by lifting away grey clouds in only a few days.

Calcium citrate is the easiest kind of calcium to absorb, and oyster shell calcium most difficult. I've found magnesium useful in combating nervousness, stomach problems and constipation. It's especially good as a stool softener.

Vitamin C is a healing supplement. It is essential in red blood cell formation, combating infection, promoting healing after surgery, and is great for gums and strong teeth. I take some before I run to improve endurance. Though some people are allergic to Vitamin C, most folks can take up to 2,000 milligrams a day without having problems.

I add beta carotene and potassium to my diet occasionally. Beta carotene is usually good for people bothered by allergies, bronchitis, colds and asthma. Potassium is helpful in dealing with stress, nervousness and dry skin. A potassium deficiency may result in panic attacks, night sweats, excessive fear, fatigue and impotence.

I don't think it's a good idea to take mega doses of Vitamin B. The B you get in a multivitamin should be sufficient, although my wife does add folic acid because it's helpful in digestion and with menstrual problems. It also combats fatigue and, like Vitamin D, can be a mood elevator.

CAREFUL OF HERBS: A recent review of studies on herbal supplements by Consumer Reports (November, 1995) underscored the danger of prolonged use of many herbs like chaparral, comfrey, ephedra, lobella and yohimbe. The data supporting the beneficial uses of herbs are slim and often anecdotal. Stories of success should not be regarded as scientific evidence. Don't confuse "natural" with safe.

SUMMARY COMMENTS: Moderation and balance in everything are the keys to good health.

The best way to remain fit and live longer is to get regular exercise, reduce fat intake and take vitamins and mineral supplements in conservative and measured amounts. If it's not against your religion and you're not an alcoholic, the French believe a glass of red wine with dinner is helpful in promoting longevity. Raw onions and cooked garlic won't do much for your breath but should help you fight off viruses. Onions and garlic are also useful in birth control. After you eat the stuff, your partner won't want to come near you!

Use common sense. If you smoke, quit. If you drink coffee, cut down. Don't force your kids to be vegetarians. Kids need meat and lots of protein to grow up with healthy minds and bodies. Make certain the juices you buy for them have been pasteurized. The E. coli bacteria is an ever-present danger in "natural" juices.

Remember to consult with a physician, preferably one with an interest in preventive medicine and nutrition.

As for now, it's Sunday. Go for a walk.

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